Category Archives: Lower School

OHS Libraries Adjust With Online Book Check Out

By Jenna Poppell

Because of COVID-19, the sense of normalcy at Oak Hall School has changed, including how the libraries on campus do business. Oak Hall’s online library catalog has been in place for some time, but there hasn’t been much of a need to utilize some of its features until this year. The website has become a great way to safely check out books and quickly access material. 

Evelyn Smith, the Middle and Upper School Media Specialist, says the online library is not only beneficial for students interested in listening to an audiobook and reading, but has many helpful databases such as World Book Online, EBSCO, and JSTOR. The databases aid students in any research for projects, or articles they may need for class. This is a very convenient change from the card catalog, where books once had to be looked up by the author or title on small pieces of paper. 

Good bye card catalog…hello technology!

In addition, print books can also be checked out from either the Lower or Upper School library. After a student puts a book on hold through the online library, it is checked out and delivered to one of the student’s classes or is available for curbside pick-up. The library is taking strict precautions to ensure the safety of all Oak Hall students eager to read. Smith noted that the Lower and Upper School libraries worked together with Oak Hall’s Re-Entry Committee to develop the current library policies and are being updated as the COVID-19 science evolves, and more research is done. “Print books can safely be checked out, but they need to be quarantined for a minimum of 72 hours to a maximum of six days after they are returned, depending on how they are stored while in quarantine,” stated Smith. 

To access the online library catalog, please click here!

The OHS online library home screen

LS Music Classes Adjust to COVID World

By Elle Storoe

The teachers at Oak Hall School have changed many programs due to COVID-19 to keep the students, and themselves safe. This task can be challenging, especially for the Lower School, which spans from pre-kindergartners to fifth graders. Oak Hall has done several things to keep the littles safe, such as altering how the music classes are held.

Oak Hall Lower School music teachers Erin Cushing and Amanda Ferwerda have revamped their lesson plans while the pandemic continues. They have prepared music kits for each student, so sharing does not occur. In addition, Cushing and Ferwerda split up the grades, so students in pre-kindergarten through second grade received kits that include egg shakers and rhythm sticks, while third through fifth grade students received kits that include rhythm sticks and an unpitched percussion instrument of choice. The choices included a triangle, a guiro, a cabasa, a sand block, a woodblock, or the maracas. The third through fifth grade students even crafted their own instruments that they use during music class. Cushing sent the music kits to students who are distance learning. Because of the restrictions due to the coronavirus, however, certain instruments cannot be used, such as wind instruments and instruments that are shared, such as hand drums, xylophones, metallophones, or recorders. Each of the lessons include musical activities, whether its dancing, learning, and playing the instruments, learning about music and music literacy. 

Third graders try out new dancing techniques during their unit of study on Bomba and Plena music from Puerto Rico

COVID-19 has put many restrictions on the music program. “It hasn’t been easy, especially considering we cannot sing which is such a foundational component of early childhood development,” Cushing said. Virtual conferences were held this past summer to help teachers learn how they can make their music class better and safe for students. “Both Mrs. Ferwerda and I each attended summer conferences to find out how we can best serve our students in a way that is still fun and educational,” said Cushing. Ferwerda and Cushing attended virtual conferences that introduced a curriculum called “Music Play”, which focuses on the movement and instrumental components of the music programs for elementary classes, and “Music Explores”, which emphasizes the diverse musical genres and cultural traditions.

With the COVID-19 restrictions, students and teachers are not allowed to sing, which is a major part of music classes. “It has been tough, but thanks to the conferences we attended over the summer, we are still excited by what we can offer our students,” Cushing stated. With the numerous restrictions, more opportunities to learn about music have been found. “We are getting to focus more on movement, genres, and history that we wouldn’t be able to include in a normal school year,” explained Cushing. The students are learning about Bomba and Plena music from Puerto Rico, learning dances, rhythmic instrumental parts to songs, and the history of music in Puerto Rico. 

LS Continues “Grandparents Day” Celebration

By Emily Youngblood

For the second year in a row, the Lower School and Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC) will celebrate Grandparents Day on April 10, by inviting student’s grandparents and grandfriends to visit Oak Hall.

This now-annual event is also called “Grandfriends Day” because some children may not have grandparents, or the family member may not be able to make it. In order to ensure no child feels left out, they may invite “grandfriends” such as neighbors, aunts, uncles, etc. As Michelle Mills, Head of the Lower School, explained, “We want to make our grandparents feel more connected to the school.”

Lower School students show their classroom to their grandparents as part of “Grandparents Day”

April 10 is a half-day which allows grandparents to spend quality time with their grandchildren once the school day is over.

Many grandparents/grandfriends have already RSVP’d but those who can’t make it can send a video of well-wishes to their grandchild for the holiday and the teacher will show it to the children in the classroom.

On the actual day, grandparents/grandfriends are checked-in and receive a badge for security. They are then taken to their grandchild’s classroom to meet the teacher and see what they are working on in class. The children will put on a brief performance for all of the grandparents/grandfriends. “It’s just an opportunity for grandparents who maybe don’t get to visit the school to come in and see the school and meet teachers,” Mills explained.

Students perform for the grandparents in attendance on “Grandparents Day”

In the past, grandparents would walk around and see the special area classrooms as well as their grandchild’s classroom, but for some grandparents, walking around that much was difficult. Now they only need to go to their grandchild’s classroom and the multipurpose room for the performance.

There used to be a grandparent’s day celebration for the lower school a long time ago, but the tradition was revived last year. “The turnout last year was amazing…we certainly want to keep it a tradition here,” said Mills.

Grandparents have until Sunday, March 15 to RSVP attendance:

LS Math Olympiad Team Look to Continue Success

By Jenna Poppell

Math Olympiad, founded in 1977, is an organization that aims to foster a passion for and competency in mathematics and problem-solving through team-based competitions. Oak Hall’s Lower School Math Olympiad team has been competing for the past 12 years and usually place in the top 10 percent of all the teams in the world. Just last year, the team scored in the top 2 percent by the end of the school year. Lower School teacher Jackson Rogers runs the club. He sees the club as a way to help students grow as a team, and as individuals. “Through the program, students develop flexibility and creativity in overcoming challenges,” he said. 

Once per month from November through March, students complete five math problems, which are not only difficult, but involve logic. From there, the problems are graded. By the end of the school year, teams earn a score out of 25 points.

This team is made up of fourth and fifth grade students with a love for math. “In order to be officially rostered, students must participate in the club for the full year,” Rogers explained. The students practice once a week after school for an hour with the help of Lower School teachers Maura Schiefer and Rick Mills. The teachers prepare the students by introducing math concepts, patterns, and problem-solving strategies. The students then have the opportunity to work together and ask questions during practice contests. While this sounds stressful, they often play fun math games as well.

For the competition, students compete with paper and pencil in exam-like conditions at the Lower School. For the aforementioned five problems, students have 30 minutes to complete the test. The exams are then submitted to the Math Olympiads organization, who tally the scores and compare them to other teams from around the world.

Faculty Spotlight: Judi Hubert

By Grace Bernstein

For the past 50 years, the Oak Hall community has been fortunate in the acquisition of many passionate and influential teachers. Kindergarten teacher Judi Hubert’s devotion to the school and her students, has made Oak Hall shine brighter throughout her tenure. 

Although Oak Hall’s founding teachers have retired, a few faculty members have been teaching at Oak Hall longer than its current senior class students have been alive. In fact, Hubert taught some of the seniors Oak Hall considers “lifers” (students who have consistently attended Oak Hall since kindergarten). 

Kindergarten teacher Judi Hubert teaches her students about Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hubert was born in Kankakee, Ill., a small farming community on the outskirts of Chicago. She attended Illinois State University, earning a degree in elementary education. Becoming a teacher was always the professional occupation Hubert aspired to obtain. “I played school with my sister and cousins,” Hubert explained. “I was always the teacher,” she continued. At the beginning of her professional education journey, Hubert interned at a few different elementary schools for several grade levels and began student teaching for a semester. Hubert’s first out-of-college job was teaching fourth grade for one year in Illinois and was also the assistant director for an Early Child Learning Center in Ohio. After living in Ohio for 10 years she moved to Gainesville for her husband’s job as the “Voice of the Florida Gators”. Hubert started teaching kindergarten at Oak Hall’s Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC), formerly known as Martha Manson Academy.

Hubert has worked at Oak Hall for 30 years. She is one of three teachers with the longest tenure; as Upper School math teacher Jim Margerum, and Middle School history teacher David Pickens share this accolade with her. Hubert’s devotion for teaching students stems from the students love for learning. Hubert hopes that her students “can follow their dreams [and] do not put a limit on [themselves],” she noted. Many students cherish Hubert’s class from their own early learning experience as an ECLC student. “Ms. Hubert is a kind, loving, teacher and I am happy she was my teacher,” said third grader Caitlin B. Lower School learning specialist Sue Hendricks, who has worked with Hubert for multiple years, appreciates the passion and hard work ethic Hubert brings to Oak Hall to ensure her students are successful. “[She] has a keen insight into how children enjoy learning through play,” Hendricks said. Hubert uses techniques like a giant dice for the children to practice their number facts, or “witch fingers” to help focus on reading. 

Kindergarten teacher Judi Hubert shows her students how to cut properly

Oak Hall has greatly changed from its original opening in 1970. “The biggest changes are the new buildings and the new entrance to the school,” Hubert said. Even though Oak Hall has greatly evolved after three decades, Hubert still welcomes the new generation into her classroom with a warm smile and an open heart. This beloved teacher has become one of the many great things Oak Hall has to offer its students. Watching her former students graduate into their new lives and reach new career paths is the ultimate reward. “That is the greatest joy when becoming a teacher,” Hubert warmly concluded.