How is distance learning is challenging and changing things at IMSA? - Rachel Hodge '21 | Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

How is distance learning is challenging and changing things at IMSA? – Rachel Hodge ’21

Rachel Hodge ’21

Lansing, IL

College Selection: Furman University, Goal Major: Neuroscience (Pre-med)

Going to IMSA, you realize that it is truly a school that can challenge you wonderfully in every way. That hasn’t really changed once we moved to distance learning. As a senior, I do believe that it is difficult to replicate many of the experiences you have on campus; however, that really hasn’t stopped students, especially me, from enjoying my last year.

A main aspect that I’m glad IMSA pushes for is collaboration. Through distance learning the number of group projects have grown. While it’s hard to find time with your group because everyone has a new set of responsibilities at home, we have so much more creative freedom in structuring the project. It’s so fun! All you need to do is follow the few requirements set beforehand and then you’re pleased to do as you want. Due to this, I was able to write a 4-page analysis essay and perform Robert Downey Jr.’s “I Love You 3000” monologue from Avengers: Endgame. I love the MARVEL franchise, so just being able to have a project about it made my day. It’s nice to see a change where students have the liberties to not only grow in class but enjoy how they do it.

One of my favorite things that IMSA has done during distance learning are the new support systems being made for sophomores. Currently the writing center has embedded tutors, like me, into the sophomores’ History and English classes. I think it’s nice, they get to meet upperclassmen and don’t have to feel scared about getting help in their American Studies or Literary Exploration classes. I think this is a huge change for the future, as students can improve their writing a lot faster. If they need help and don’t feel comfortable with the teacher yet, they can go to their peers. We all want the sophomores to feel like IMSA is there home away from home, so by adding another support system they can have right at their fingertips is a change that is very likely to stay; a change I want to stay.

Personally, I don’t think you can go to IMSA without at least being in one activity but going virtual has made it hard for many creative extracurriculars to continue. I’m a member of the Drama Club and a former member of the Wind Ensemble, so I know just how hard it is to act and perform over a screen. We’ve been working around it by making virtual concerts and using radio plays. In Drama, the technical department may not be able to build a set for everyone to see, but we help with editing and backgrounds. It’s hard and a little scary not knowing what the final product will look like because we’ve never done something like this before. Still, our skills in many areas are growing because of it, so we have fun and look forward.

I’ve learned that there is still so much we can do from our rectangular screens. Quite a few courses at IMSA are hands-on and not just the science classes for labs. The creative ability that we are given helps prove that while we may still be a math and science school, our imagination and innovation with things such as our production, music, and art don’t go away when we aren’t there.