Will Cornelisse checked his email.
It had been at least a few hours since he last opened the mailbox tab on his phone.
The inbox looked empty, save for the few college solicitations and message receipts that cluttered his inbox.
But, within a few seconds of refreshing his browser, a new chain of messages lit up his screen.
One message — a reply from a Stanford University email address — caught his attention. It was from R.B. Laughlin, the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Will, a senior, had emailed him with questions about nuclear fusion. He decided to investigate the topic for an investigative research project in Mr. Brian Mulcahey’s AP Environmental Science class.
To Will’s amazement, Mr. Laughlin had responded. He didn’t just send him a brief note, either. Mr. Laughlin had provided him with the link to a Stanford archive full of scholarly articles, which discussed the complex scientific and political nature of nuclear fusion — not your ordinary primary source research.
Needless to say, any kind of correspondence between a high school student and a Noble Prize-winning physicist isn’t part of a normal education. But at CM, it’s nothing new — really. Rather, it’s what a student has come to expect since the school transitioned to its online learning platform in March.
Over the past three months, CM faculty have regularly found new, cutting-edge ways to deliver an innovative curriculum into the homes of their students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The projects, all interdisciplinary in nature, inspired students to step outside their comfort zones and flex their creativity.
In Ms. Michelle Wynn’s chemistry class, students studied supersaturated solutions by making rock candy in their kitchens. National Geographic webinars offered middle school students a chance to design and engineer tools needed for a trans-continental hike. Dr. Mickey Corso — known for his ability to blend holistic instruction in theology with a forward-thinking approach to technology — turned a Passover lesson into a pseudo cooking show.
These projects didn’t appear overnight either. They took hours to plan. Many faculty and administrators gave up their weekends, often burning the midnight oil even more than usual, to ensure their students received the best education possible.
But, thanks to the resources and leadership already in place at CM, the administration provided the necessary support needed to ensure the school pivoted in time to launch its first virtual classroom once the pandemic began.
Mr. Brian Palm, the Assistant Head of School at CM, believes the professional training provided at CM over the past four years played a major role in preparing the faculty for the transition.
In fact, he said the training inspired creativity and risk-taking in the online learning environment, one that keeps students engaged on an everyday basis.
“The developments in our teaching pedagogy have been focused around the idea that content needs to connect to the boys’ lives,” said Mr. Palm.
“As a result of this emphasis, the teaching and learning culture at CM had already shifted away from content and presentation heavy, teacher-centered learning.”
Many teachers, such as Ms. Ellen Eberly, had already taken advantage of virtual plat-forms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams well beforehand. Using both these platforms, the faculty collaborated with one another to find new ways of expanding upon instructions, lecture effectively, and remind students of upcoming assignments.
Those resources spilled over from the classroom and into the various departments across campus. The Athletic Department used video conferencing tools to host virtual practices with its spring student athletes after the MIAA canceled its spring season. Meanwhile, the Advancement, Counseling, and Admissions teams utilized the resources to provide webinars for alumni, students, and prospective parents.
So, while nobody knows how the world will look tomorrow, or months from now, we at least know our students will continue to receive a world-class education here in Greater Boston.
In some cases, it might even arrive in the form of an email from a Stanford professor a few thousand miles away.
We know that promise of a world-class education makes a difference in the lives of our friends, alumni, and families, especially those in need of a sense of hope now more than ever.
To learn more about Online Learning @ CM this spring, click here