Students practice hands-on skills outside

Welcome to our new series, COVID-19 Innovations. Here, we chronicle the innovative ways that career and technical educators continue to engage students as lifelong learners and prepare them for rewarding careers, even as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended the 2020–21 school year.

Career and technical educators have shown creativity and flexibility in the face of campus closures and social distancing requirements. In fall 2020, the career and technical education (CTE) department at Rockbridge County High School (RCHS), in Virginia, collaborated to provide students, as much as possible, with a genuine CTE experience. RCHS faculty supplemented virtual instruction with an outdoor CTE classroom along with prepackaged materials for hands-on practice.

Open-air learning

While RCHS delivered most instruction remotely, students in certain CTE programs could sign up to work one-on-one with their instructor: automotive technology and auto body, building trades and construction technology, manufacturing and electronics. In addition, aerospace technology students flew drones. Family and consumer sciences learners carved pumpkins.

The outdoor, socially distanced setup enabled students to complete performance assessments and check off competencies. Those learners who chose not to participate in the open-air classroom participated in virtual learning and assessment.

To comply with safety regulations, learners completed health screenings and had their temperatures taken at check-in. All students and instructors wore masks at all times. Workstations were sanitized after each use, and some learners also wore gloves.

Going mobile

Throughout the fall, educators worked to ensure that all learners who chose to participate in the outdoor classroom had transportation. RCHS hoped to take the classroom mobile, traveling to locations around the community with equipment loaded on trailers. However, rising case rates and colder weather resulted in the closure of the outdoor classroom in mid-November.

Do you have a COVID-19 innovation to share?

ACTE wants to hear about the innovative ways you are coping with the impact of the pandemic on CTE and career development. Please fill out this short form, and you could be featured in this series. For additional ideas on remote, blended and socially distanced in-person learning for CTE, check out ACTE’s comprehensive guide High-quality CTE: Planning for a COVID-19-impacted School Year and CTE distance learning lesson plan resources.