How can our learners engage in meaningful ways with their school work? With their teachers? With other students? With their parents?  These questions are paramount in our day to day operations of our virtual school endeavors. We want to make sure that the mission of Unity Charter School still holds strong even while sheltering in place at home.  By growing our strong social emotional practices in new ways and keeping sustainability in the forefront, the learning at Unity Charter School is thriving.

Routine. We know this is what students need to feel secure, and ready to learn. From the first day of the school closure, our teachers and students had a regular routine with scheduled classes for all learners in grades K through eight. Lessons were communicated home and our teaching staff was (and still are) available to guide students and parents through the work. This set the pace and tone of learning for families and our staff.  Learning is not a passive activity at Unity. Constructivist learning takes place in every classroom, and we wanted to bring the learning to life at home. Once our families got used to balancing work, life, and school all from their house even as we added new layers to our program.

Engagement.  By our second week of virtual schooling, the use of online platforms to connect with our students became another element to be sure our students feel supported. We continued to provide “live lessons” to keep the key social connections in place and to ascend instruction.  We know that during the childhood years students learn appropriate social cues through face to face interactions, where facial expressions and body language can be viewed. 

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Choice. As we moved into week two, we understood that families needed more flexibility in their day and wanted to expand upon our experiential learning opportunities that are normally found within a Unity classroom. Fabulous Friday choice boards were created to allow for distance learning to take place as a family.  Families are able to plan their day according to what the students are interested in and what fits in the family’s schedule. Nature scavenger hunts, studies in fashion design, participation in live online dance classes, participation in the Eco-Careers Conference, creation of diary entries of our lives now shared with the New York Historical Society, and data collection as citizen scientists have been some options that students engaged in. This week alone, students created stick dinosaurs and did historical walks within their towns. 

At Unity Charter School, virtual learning does not mean that all learning takes place online. It just means it is happening outside our school, it’s remote learning with virtual connections. Studies have shown that cutting down screen time can also have a positive effect on kids' physical, social, and behavioral well-being, and can even improve their academic performance.We pride ourselves on continuing to embrace this journey together and provide students the opportunity to become the eco-literate citizens of tomorrow while studying at home.

Unity Charter School exemplifies educational excellence, infusing Education for Sustainability throughout our culture", said school officials . "Student agency drives critical thinking and inspires advocacy through a constructivist learning approach. Unity fosters global understanding and graduates students ready to change the world for the better.

For more information visit www.unitycharterschool.org

Application for enrollment: https://unitycharterschool.org/application-for-enrollment/

Unity Charter School is a tuition-free, public school in Morris Township that offers a unique approach to education for students from Kindergarten to 8th Grade throughout New Jersey. Enrollment is open to all New Jersey residents.