How does a school system encourage and direct learning when no one is going to school?

Classes for all students — cute kindergartners through RHS seniors — are indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus. So, the Ridgefield public schools have launched into full scale “distance learning.”

The school system is offering “continuity learning packets” on its website www.Ridgefield.org.

An initial click takes the viewer to a page showing four folders: Alternative High School, High School, Middle School, Elementary School.

A click on any of those folders reveals more folders.

The high school folder has various familiar disciplines and areas of study: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, Health, Technology Education, Family and Consumer Science. — a total of 12 in all

A click on, say, Social Studies, reveals 17 different Word documents, each with the title of a course — International Relations, Law and Justice, Economics — followed by the words “emergency school closure.”

And those word documents contain directions, links to instructional videos, and questions for students to answer.

For the grade 11 U.S. History course, the student directions say: “You will be working though Crash Course: U.S. History. These videos will give you a preview of the content we will be covering over the rest of the school year. For each video you should:

“Identify which essential question/questions you will be working with.

“Take notes on video which will address the essential question(s).

“Provide a written paragraph response.

“You may want to do some additional research around the topics covered in the videos.”

The videos listed are accompanied by links for the students to click on and watch them.

U.S. History

For the U.S. History course that most RHS juniors take, things start with a 10-day schedule of videos to watch, and “essential questions” to be answered for each one.

The 10-day schedule is: Day 1, The Cold War; Day 2, The Cold War in Asia; Day 3, Civil Rights and the 1950s; Day 4, The 1960s in America; Day 5, The Rise of Conservatism; Day 6, Ford, Carter and the Economic Malaise; Day 7, The Reagan Revolution; Day 8, George H.W. Bush and the End of the Cold War; Day 9, The Clinton Years, or the 1990s; Day 10, Terrorism, War and Bush 43.”

Each day’s video link is followed by the “essential questions” the student must answer.

For “Terrorism, War and Bush 43,” there are four questions:

1. “Is it the responsibility of the United States today to be the world’s ‘policeman’?

2. “Can global terrorism be stopped?

3. “Is it constitutional for the United States to fight preemptive wars?

4. “Is the world safer since the end of the Cold War?”

Middle school

For middle schoolers, the initial click shows nine folders: Social Studies; Family and Consumer Science; Visual and Performing Arts; Physical Education; Health; World Language; Math, Science; English.

For physical education, the instructions are simple but specific: “Students should work to achieve 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week, as recommended by the American Heart Association. Fill out the following log to keep track of your progress.

“Please choose activities you can do at home or outside of your house. Some examples: walking, running, yoga, HITT training, circuits, body weight exercises, fitness videos, fitness apps, playing outside, basketball, street hockey, hiking, cycling, etc.

“You are earning points for your weekly participation grade.”

And below is a weekly chart with days one through five, in which students are asked to list their activities each day, the equipment they used, and their time at the activity. At the bottom is a “total time the week” line.

Daily reading

For seventh grade English, student directions are:

“Choose an independent fiction book that you are interested in reading. Read for 20 to 30 minutes each day. You may use a book you are already reading. If you finish one book, choose another and continue the daily reading and writing.

“Create a google doc and share it with your English teacher. Answer all of your questions on this google doc.

“After your 20-30 minutes of reading each day, you will respond in writing to one question.

“For example, on the first day we are off from school, you will answer the Day 1 question below: How does the author reveal the character? (Look at what the character does, thinks, or says and/or what others say about the character.)”

And, the seventh grade reader can expect a new question to respond to the next day, for 10 days in total.

There are “requirements for responses” to the reading questions.

These include English-teacherish stuff like: “Compose a well-written short response. Begin with a topic sentence that restates question/prompt and includes author and title.

“Then, transition into responding to the question/prompt for the day. Use transitional words and phrases. Include one piece of evidence in the form of a quotation to support your ideas.”

At the bottom is another link, this one to “How to write a paragraph” — along with a “graphic organizer.”

Elementary school

What about little kids? They get hit with it, too — homework during the extended “no school’ break.

In the elementary grade, though, this can involve the parents, too.

The instructions for second grade math begin with a warm address to both:

“Dear Grade 2 Parents and Students,

“Welcome to the second grade take home math bundle. We request that your child complete a variety of these tasks and activities at home during a convenient time. Below the two week grid there are images of the pages referred to. If you cannot print the links or activities, you can complete the work with paper and pencil.

“Each day is dedicated to about an hour of math…”

Who said little kids have it easy?

For second graders, their hour of math includes three elements:

“Independent problem solving tasks;

“Math activities and/or games;

And, there’s something called “Dreambox” — they’re expected to do 20 minutes of that.

Whatever it is.

With luck, the parents will figure it out — but let the kids do the work.