Everyone who has attended or visited Rio Lindo Adventist Academy knows that life is much more than what happens in the classroom. School life is filled with opportunities to socialize, worship, connect and lead one another to personal growth and discovery. When the pandemic hit right before spring break 2020, the school was tasked with putting all of the facets of Rio’s program online and keeping the sense of family and community alive.
Rio Lindo Adventist Academy teacher Denise Tonn tasked her biology students to step away from their computer screens and find items from around the house to build working models of a cell membrane. Students used props such as sponges, to q-tips, match sticks, pipe cleaners, and Silly Putty to create a model that demonstrated the biological processes of diffusion, osmosis, facilitated diffusion, and active transport. Then, each student presented the model to the rest of the class through Zoom.
“During our time of distance learning, I constantly challenged my students to take a break from their screens and engage with hands-on activities as much as possible which makes the learning extra ‘sticky’,” said Mrs.Tonn.
In her Biology class, students also were tasked with finding and identifying as many plants and animals they could in and around their homes using the Seek app. Several students discovered hundreds of species in their own backyards that had previously gone unnoticed.
Another adaptation to virtual learning was Rio’s spring music concert. The performing arts department, led by Connie Scholotthauer, had been preparing since the fall to perform “The Lion King Jr.” and students were devastated to miss out on seeing their project come to fruition. Instead, students from all music and performing groups compiled videos, ensembles, and inspirational spoken word performances to share with the student body in the form of a Virtual Spring Concert, which is available online to view. One of the acts, “Lean on Me“, featured students singing solos and sharing through pictures what lifted them up and kept them going through the hard times.
Two students, Lemti Nyrinedah and Elia Privat made music videos with their fathers. Lemti’s father Alex sang and acted out a comedic scene in their home to the music of “Good People” by Jack Johnson, accompanied by Lemti on the ukelele. In an extraordinarily moving performance, parent Daniel Privat joined his daughter Elia in singing “Agnus Dei” by the David Phelps.
To continue the social connections with the girls in the dorms, the girls deans hand wrote letters, encouraging students and bringing a bit of light into their lives. It meant so much for the girls to receive some kind thoughts from their deans and many of them paid it forward and also wrote letters to friends.
Lastly, students and staff made sure school life started on a positive and spiritually uplifting note. In the mornings, students and staff alike shared testimonies and devotionals through videos in the chapel “class”. Student leaders such as Linday Murrey and Carly Weems shared Bible verses of hope and musical numbers.
Even though Rio’s program went entirely online, many shared that they were grateful that teachers and staff went the “distance” to continue making a difference in students’ lives.
“We are hopeful that the next school year will be a new start to happy and fun memories once again. We know it will be different but it is hoped that the changes will not take away the essence of the core of what makes RLAA what it is,” said parent Flora J.-Milosavljevic.