A school located in New York’s 15th Congressional District has enjoyed its virtual learning through poetry and theater.
It’s taken foresight, planning and on-the-fly adaptation, but Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls (BLIG) on Concourse Village West has successfully made the transition to distance learning and is even using the coronavirus crisis to build teaching skills and encourage students to express their feelings about the pandemic in verse.
“I think you should remember / That it never rains forever / Keep your head up tall / Don’t forget, we are the strongest ever,” is how eighth grader Ashlee Acevedo ends her poem “Fighting Together.”
“I am so proud of our girls, how they’re dealing with this situation and how they’re working through the challenges,” BGLIG Middle School Principal Carmen Umpierre said. “These young women are rising to the occasion, including those who must be caretakers at home for sick parents and younger brothers and sisters.”
Umpierre said Acevedo was inspired to write her poem as part of BGLIG’s focus on social emotional learning. She added that middle school students have already moved on to studying Shakespeare ahead of schedule.
BGLIG, which serves 450 students in grades K-8, has made sure every student has access to a Chromebook or laptop, except for kindergarten and first grade students who are working with instructional packets sent home on a regular basis.
Additionally, teachers have been able to take professional development classes online from Harvard and coaching sessions to address technological challenges.
“This pandemic has created changes in our daily work life,” said fourth grade Spanish teacher Yasalenny Peralta. “We have had to adjust to the changes in order for our students to continue learning. What has really worked for me is the support and communication provided between the coaches and teachers.”
Elementary School Principal Courtne Thomas said that the experience has been a “team effort.”
“We have teams and systems in place for every aspect of our school, from academic to enrichment and supplemental services to behavior,” Thomas said. “We have teams tracking data, attendance, student progress, parent outreach and overall support, and running logs for every area. It’s working well.”
Attendance has spiked dramatically since virtual learning began and now exceeds 90 percent. High school acceptances recently came out and 41 percent of the graduating eighth graders were accepted into their first-choice school. Eight students were accepted into specialized music and arts programs and one student going on to attend the selective program at Thatcher School.
BGLIG is known for its dance and music programs, particularly its string orchestra, which has performed at Carnegie Hall and Yankee Stadium, and this year was part of a Grammy nomination for the school’s former music director.
“We have been heartened and encouraged by the dedication of our entire BGLIG community, including teachers, students and parents and caregivers,” said Board Chair Alana Barran. “Our transition to distance learning has gone well and our school community has remained strong. This speaks to the strength of our BGLIG family and the unique character of our student body, parent community and staff members.”
Along with providing a high-quality classroom education to its students, BGLIG is also home to “Joe’s Violin,” which was the subject of a 2017 Academy Award-nominated documentary about Joseph Feingold, a Holocaust survivor who in 2014 donated his violin to the school as part of an instrument-donation drive started by classical radio station WQXR.
Feingold acquired the violin in 1947, in return for a carton of cigarettes, while living in a displaced persons camp in Germany. He died last month at age 97 due to complications of COVID-19. His obituary is here.
Here is Acevedo’s entire poem, “Fighting Together”:
Things are getting harder,
Yes, this I know.
In order to keep safe
You keep yourself on the low
People are separating
This is the world we are making.
Don’t think it’s a joke.
It’s people’s lives that it’s taking.
Making, due with the challenges
We are facing.
The things this is taking.
We are strong
Never forget this
Look up at the stars
Harshness is not only the latest
But don’t give up yet,
Still keep yourself on the low
Pay attention to the news
It’s almost plateaued.
We can do this,
If we just band together
Fight through this all
Even through the stormy weather
I think you should remember
That it never rains forever.
Keep your head up tall
Don’t forget, we are the strongest.
This is a video of 7th grader Emily Nunez’s science experiment, creating electricity. It’s part of the school’s science prep and STEM curriculum. One of the requirements was to upload the project to YouTube.