COVID-19  impacting sixth graders’ world

Tonantzi Prado, Patty Ovalle and Gracie Raborn participate virtually in Art2Heart programs.

To accommodate the “shelter in place” and “social distancing” directives for COVID-19, B.T. Wilson sixth graders in Lorraine LeMon’s Art2Heart Program have traded their lively art classroom for cell phone-sized computer screens at home.

Heart to Heart Quarantine Conversations

LeMon said this project was planned as a way to see how the children are affected by the COVID-19 restrictions and precautions, compared to the adults in their lives, including virtual learning at home and each family’s version of “sheltering in place.”

So they have been discussing these new feelings, experiences, learning and complaints, too.

As they learn about themselves in this “new normal,” they are also demonstrating a developing awareness of the human condition. Their insights are full of love and appreciation for others, LeMon said.

Foremost, she said, they report the joy of “getting to hang with parents,” as Patty (Patricia) Ovalle, 12, observed.

More home time with family includes opportunities for playing games, watching movies together, sharing homework with siblings, cooking with Mom, working in the yard, and, they laughed, snacking.

Patty said her mother is a teacher and her father works in metals, designing things like belt buckles. She has two older sisters.

And, as Gracie Raborn confesses, even “getting agitated with one another sometimes.”

Gracie said her father is a nurse for the Veterans Administration in Austin, and the virus precautions mean she can’t go to his house every other weekend as she was doing before. She called that “stinkin’.”

Her mother had been taking her on the 1 ½ hour drive to Austin and back before.

“I got to go see him last weekend, but that was the first time since Spring Break,” she said. “And I can’t see either of my grandmas.”

She said her mother works as Peterson Health here and her stepmother also works in a hospital.

While technology connects these students to others, including friends, extended family and teachers, its limitations for connection are, as one student explained, “glitchy.”

They generally agree that online instruction has technical difficulties which make learning more of a challenge, but the isolation that Patty describes is more of an issue because online “I’m on my own.”

The virtual conversations they are having, as Lindsey Fowler observes, “just aren’t the same as getting to see friends.”

They are concerned about clearly communicating—whether their message is correctly interpreted.

Elena Salinas explains, “The voice goes up and down; the hand motions are there; we make sounds that tell what we mean. Face to face emotion is lost.”

“We need the human touch,” Tonantzi Prado adds, and said, “We’re not going back to school the rest of this year, or maybe even next year.”

Tonantzi emphasizes “the impact on those with money problems in struggling families. The shortages are harder for them because they need to purchase extra supplies.”

She said she likes being home, but immediately added, “It’s hard staying home with my three sisters, one younger and two older. Sometimes I wish I had a brother.”

She said her father continues to work in his construction company; while her mother is home mostly, but also cleans apartments.

These students express concern for others beyond the safety of their own homes. Kaylynn Grinstead refers to effects of isolation on the human condition, pointing out that some people don’t use computers, and those people are more isolated now.

Cadence and Olivia Schneider point out, “The precautions mean that some people’s needs aren’t getting met. For example, people not going to see the doctor (for non-emergencies).”

Leila Ayala also shares a sense of frustration at not being able to reach out to others.

“We don’t go out. We have to live up to those things (restrictions) or we could all get sick. There’s not much we can do about it,” Leila said.

“March was the last time we went to school,” she said. “And I had a panic attack in a Walmart in March, seeing all the empty shelves. So now I stay home with my younger sister.

“I miss school now; and I don’t even like school,” Leila said, to which Gracie added, “I want to go to school!”

“I’m a busy life-social-type person. Not seeing different people just makes me feel weird,” opines 12-year-old Lindsey about changes the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to her life.

The four who were interviewed via Zoom last week said none of them personally know anyone who has contracted the Coronavirus; they’re only following the general rules.

This group had been meeting in a BT Wilson classroom each Tuesday and Thursday after school. With school closing for Spring Break in March and not re-opening for on-campus classes, this class of all girls has taken on this Art-Heart journaling and art online class as another assignment.

On Tuesdays they start with journaling, learning as a group to write about their feelings and experiences; followed by some art exploration.

On Thursdays, with computers connected, they begin with art projects, and end with more journaling and discussion.

On Zoom, they can text message or email papers to the adult leaders; or present their writing orally.

The climax of this discussion, writing and art will be copies of a printed book for each student, a collaborative effort among the class members.

And every class begins with the students reciting the Art2Heart core creed, the definitions of the acronym C.R.A.V.E.

That, as the girls can loudly recite, stands for Commitment, Responsibility, Accountability, Vision and Example.

LeMon said they talk about one of those attributes at each meeting, how to define it and how to live it out in everyday life.

However, these Art2Heart students aren’t letting this be an empty time for them. In addition to completing this year’s schoolwork, they are working together online to develop their art skills, all the while navigating new frontiers of connecting with others via technology.

In addition to LeMon, her assistants include Susen Cusen who has been teaching the students about “journaling,” teacher Denis Manos, and multi-tasking director of operations and office administrator Sabrina Lee who also teaches the students art principles. Those include lines, colors and shapes, vocabulary, and sketching and drawing anything they can.

Lee said her goal is for each student to draw a self-portrait at the end of this.

“We’ll possibly go through June with this, especially the art,” Lee said.

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