Yesterday was the first of our two planned remote days for the cycle, and the first two of our 14 total planned remote days for the year. We have had, and will have unplanned remote days, as well. For example, we were forced to go remote because of all-day thunderstorms twice before in this first cycle of the 2020-2021 academic year. And there are bound to be more days with thunderstorms, or freezing rain, or tornado watches at some point. In a worse case scenario, someone in our community could contract Covid-19 and their cell would then be forced to go remote. But our planned remote days are proactive as opposed to reactive, so that we can reduce the likelihood of the spread of Covid-19 in our community while still allowing Learners and Facilitators to come together in-person. The planned remote days provide enough time between cycles to watch for developing symptoms that would prevent us from bringing people back together in new cells when the next cycle begins.

Our planned remote days are also different than our unplanned ones. When we have to shut down for the day due to inclement weather we are scrambling to let the families know by 7 a.m. that we cannot meet in-person that day. We update the website, we update the internal Facebook group, and we text and email the families. We let the Learners know with a Discord update, as well. And then we might go ahead and propose some offerings during the day. There is usually a sense of disappointment from Facilitators and Learners alike when we cannot be together, although that might change when the freezing rain comes. But when we have a planned remote day there is no rush to figure out what the plan for the day is or to update the families. We have most likely already prepared some online offerings that Learners can opt into. And while it is not as fun as meeting in person, at least it was anticipated.

Our first planned remote day

Our first planned remote day

Yesterday we started our day with a 10 a.m. morning meeting. We were not broken up by operating cell on this planned remote day, and we had three Facilitators and seven Learners show up for the meeting. A pleasant moment at the beginning of the meeting was a young Learner seeing Facilitator Lauren and saying, “I know you.” The young Learner had previously attended a nearby nature school where Lauren had been an outdoor educator, and they were in the same group there. Each Learner reflected on their first three weeks together in their cells, and then shared their intentions for the day.

Once the meeting was over I stuck around for my crossword puzzle offering which no one but another Facilitator showed up for. The crosswords seem to have more of an appeal to Learners in-person, even though they cannot see the crossword puzzle when we are together because of physical distancing, while they can easily see it on a shared screen when we are remote. So I spent that time discussing things that needed to get done at Abrome over the next few days. I then worked on setting up a check-in with one of the newer Learners and then dropped in on Facilitator Lauren’s artist studio hangout offering, where one Learner was hanging out. At 12 p.m. we had the check-in meeting with the newer Learner.

At 1 p.m. I hosted the make noise offering—an invitation for Learners to bring whatever instruments they wanted to learn how to play, or already knew how to play, and make noise with me. I had recently bought a ukulele to strum while I am out with my operating cell on lazier days, and this offering gave me the chance to play around with it for the first time. A younger Learner brought his guitar with him, and we talked about how he was learning how to play and my confusion over the sheets of music that came with the ukulele. The Learner was shocked that at my age I did not know how to play a ukulele, and I explained that the learning process is largely the same no matter what age we begin to learn something. The Learner soon got bored talking about guitars and ukuleles and proposed that we play the number game that we were doing when we were remote last year. I soon realized he was talking about sudoku, so I pulled up a puzzle to solve.

After the make noise offering I stuck around to help make sure that the Pictionary offering had the the support it needed before I headed to the park. At least one Learner, also a newer Learner, had arrived by the time I left, so that felt good. I headed to the park with Cuddle Buddies Ingrid and Ivan, and a 5-gallon bucket, to fulfill one of my daily intentions which was to check on the tadpoles that we had been taking care of. When I arrived I was dismayed to see one of the puddles almost dried out, with a bit of water and what looked to be lots of tadpoles bunched together. I went to the lake and filled up the 5-gallon bucket with water and returned to the puddle and poured it out, and repeated the process over and over again. It was not long before I noticed lots of the little creatures swimming around again, but when I looked closer I was stunned to see that they had turned into frogs over the weekend! I immediately shared the update with the Learners on Discord and then let Ingrid and Ivan explore a bit, before returning in time for the afternoon roundup.

Tiny, cute, and most importantly, alive!

At the afternoon roundup, which had all three Facilitators but only four Learners present, I shared a video of the little frogs thriving. One of the younger Learners offered to lead the meeting and he asked how we all did with our intentions for the day, as well as what bird we were feeling like. One Learner felt like a vulture, one like a parakeet, and two said they didn’t feel like birds but they felt like a human. Next we shared announcements and then adjourned the meeting.

I felt great about my day in terms of getting most of my goals accomplished. I woke up early and got a run in, I interact with most of the Learners on either Zoom or Discord, I got to check in with the Facilitators, I had a formal check-in with a Learner, and I found out that many of the tadpoles had survived to become frogs! But I also missed the conversations that I could have had if we were meeting in-person. And I was disappointed that several Learners did not check in during the day. I continue to struggle with the frustration of remote or virtual gatherings being a poor but (in this case) necessary substitute for meeting in-person.