This past week we had Jeff Hopkins join us from the Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry, here in Victoria. It was a great opportunity to better understand not only how the school functions on a normal day, but also how they’ve adapted to life in a pandemic. As was shown through a short tour through the school, they have put an enormous effort into maintaining the collaborative culture that makes the school unique. Though there is a bit more separation required between students and teachers now, the environment is still very inviting and has been able to retain its original feel.

I have long thought that a multi-disciplinary approach to learning can better reflect the true holistic nature of how the seemingly-discrete subjects we typically learn in school. The fact that PSII is able to incorporate so many elements into such a small space is very impressive. There are whole rooms designated for students to explore and practice skills in almost every subject, but most significantly of all, in my opinion, is the fact that they’ve designated a whole room to being essentially empty. The purpose for this being that Mr. Hopkins and the other staff at the school have realized over the years that students often need a quiet place that is devoid of sensory input to allow them to get away from their studies and peers. Even though the school has had to rearrange much of the layout of their school, they have kept this quiet space. I think this room is very symbolic of the school’s overall approach to focus on their students mental and physical needs.

Every time I hear Mr. Hopkins speak about his philosophy about inquiry-based learning, his passion about reaching every student is extremely clear. I am inspired by his dedication to students success and I hope to meet him one day in person, and maybe even check out the school when its safe to do so.

The pandemic has changed the learning environment for almost everyone and there has been problems resulting from these changes. The physical separation of everyone has led to an increase in mental health issues. Luckily students at PSII have been able to continue to attend the school downtown and have the quality of support that the staff offer.

Those that are learning online, however, have faced a significant increase in screen time. This has been demonstrated to have detrimental effects on the eyes, as is laid out in this overview from UPMC. The main effects that they list include:

  • Eye Fatigue
  • Dry and Irritated Eyes
  • Loss of Focus Flexibility
  • Nearsightedness
  • Retinal Damage
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They provide some helpful recommendations for those that have to spend extended amounts of time staring at screens, which include:

  • Adjusting the Lighting: “make sure your screen isn’t brighter than the surrounding light, or your eyes will have to work harder to see. Adjust your room lighting or your screen lighting and increase the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.”
  • Give Your Eyes a Break: Follow the recommended 20-20-20 rule to reduce strain.
    • This means you should take a break “every 20 minutes by looking at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a break and allows them to refocus.”
  • Keep Eyes Moist: Screen time can dry out your eyes. Use drops.
  • Keep Your Distance: “keep your screen about arms length or 25 inches away  from your eyes”
  • Reduce Glare: Specifically sun glare, which can aggravate eyes
  • Use Blue Light Filters: reduces fatigue
  • Yearly Eye Exam

These are all important reminders that we need to look after our health in these weird Covid times. I will definitely try to adopt this 20-20-20 rule. This has been great encouragement to take more staring at a screen.

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