NMH Lab Program: Creating Relationships Across the Globe

Oct. 8, 2020 — English teacher Meg Donnelly’s creative nonfiction class starts early. At 7:15 am ET, Donnelly was on Zoom, greeting each of her NMH Lab Program students as their faces appeared on the computer screen. “Hi, Katie! Good morning, Betty! Hi, Joey, and how are you? Can you move your screen a little so I can see you better?”

In the Lab program, NMH’s remote-learning option, classes are scheduled to accommodate students from all over the world. Donnelly’s students are among the approximately 140 NMH students who started the 2020–21 school year in the Lab program. Most live in countries where COVID-19-related travel restrictions prevented them from getting to campus for in-person classes this fall. “I’m trying hard to create relationships even though we’re far apart,” Donnelly said. “We spend lots of class time talking to each other.” \

The personal touch is intentional, said Lab Program Director Grant Gonzalez. “This isn’t a hybrid model. We’re delivering a community.” Providing families with a stand-alone remote-learning model in addition to an on-campus program is allowing NMH to serve all its students. “We’re not trying to replace the on-campus experience. We’re bringing as much of NMH as possible to these students,” Gonzalez said. 

Not long after NMH shifted to remote learning last spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, faculty began planning for the next academic year. Feedback from students, families, and teachers informed the Lab program’s development. It follows a project-based curriculum and balances live class meetings, collaborative work outside of classes, and expanded extra-help time. Just like on campus, the program connects students with a network of supportive adults through the Partnership of 12 Program, and offers access to sports, arts, affinity groups, and cocurriculars. Students have the option of staying in the Lab program for the entire school year, but students can transition to campus during any marking period.

“In the spring, due to the time difference, I had to miss some classes and watch the videos instead, ” said Angie ’22, of Seoul. “This year, I’m fully involved in my classes, and I’m getting a lot done.”

Learning remotely doesn’t come without challenges. For Bill ’21, of Shanghai, attending classes at night often means skipping get-togethers with friends at home. But, he says, “My teachers offer many opportunities to talk about more than just what the class is teaching, which makes me feel cared for. Most importantly, I know my NMH friends will always be by my side.”

Oleg ’21, of Moscow, recently arrived on campus after starting the year remotely. After 14 days of on-campus quarantine, he’ll move into his dorm room in Lower Tron. “No amount of online interaction will recreate being on campus, but the teachers try to give us as close to an in-school experience as possible,” he said. “ Their personal approach to teaching means a lot.”