How does nurturing independent learning and creative thinking help our students during COVID-19?


At New Morning School, our teaching method encourages a mindset that has prepared our students for the coronavirus and beyond.

Out of necessity this year, teachers, students and parents were introduced to the concept of online schooling. Traditional learning had to quickly pivot to accommodate the concept of online school for kids.

While many schools simply were not able to adapt to this new model of remote learning, a handful of schools were able to make the jump without missing a beat.

How did schools manage to succeed? At New Morning School in Plymouth, Michigan, the private school managed to implement a remote learning plan weeks before other schools in Michigan were mandated to do so, and students managed a seamless transition.

Students immediately continued their lesson plans, with many using school-provided Chromebooks to participate in ongoing educational activities. They met with their teachers individually, as well as with their classmates using Zoom.

Let’s look at how New Morning has mastered online learning for children from preschool through middle school.

Encouraged to create, middle school students continue to thrive

Middle school teacher Linda Hyde pointed out that in a time where all of society has had to learn how to adapt to ‘the new normal,’ the ability to use creative thinking has proven helpful in many ways.

“In such a time of uncertainty, as this COVID situation certainly is, students need opportunities to think creatively and to imagine worlds beyond the present and to imagine a brighter future that exists beyond this time,” Hyde said. “I have found that my students have enthusiastically embraced writing assignments that involve the creation of a narrative.

“Writing assignments or projects that involve creative problem solving have also resulted in incredible student engagement.”

Linda Hyde, middle school teacher

“Such assignments allow students to lose themselves in the creation of a story about the conflicts of someone else, in a different time and place, thus allowing them to forget about their own conflicts for the time being while they vicariously involve themselves in another person’s life.”

Empathy and creativity have gone a long way with her middle schoolers, from grades five to eight, who have performed with responsibility throughout the at-home learning portion of the school year.

“Writing assignments or projects that involve creative problem solving have also resulted in incredible student engagement,” Hyde said. “As resilient as our students are, they need opportunities to flex that resiliency and to demonstrate that even though the world as we know it is not as we would want it to be, that they can exact some control over their personal situations through working through authentic mental challenges and by engaging their imagination in the safety of the online classroom.”

Understanding and developing a growth mindset at all levels

That led to the discussion of having a ‘growth mindset,’ a concept that has been nurtured at all levels at New Morning School. The growth mindset has grown in popularity in recent years, not just in the classroom for young people, but even for advanced college learners.

Carol Dweck, a psychologist and instructor at Stanford University, has done much to advance the concept of the growth mindset. This has been adapted at New Morning, which has allowed students to freely grow without restrictions placed upon them.

“Feeling imprisoned and restricted because of COVID, is just that, a feeling and a mindset,” Hyde said. “By encouraging creative and imaginative thinking in our students, we help students develop a growth mindset, and we help them to realize that true freedom is only limited by the scope of their imagination.”

This methodology begins at the younger levels.

Preschool, kindergarten lay the foundation for independent learning

“Our kids have been encouraged and supported to be independent learners and creative thinkers over the years at New Morning School,” preschool teacher Marisa Downs said. “We didn’t expect our new teaching and learning situation, but here we are. 

“We stress individuality and independence, which lends itself to learning in isolation.”

Katelyn Ewing, kindergarten teacher

“While this situation is extremely challenging, and it’s understandable for kids to need extra support, we hope they are able to apply the skills they’ve practiced at school.”

Katelyn Ewing, kindergarten teacher, believes that is exactly what her students – and all New Morning students – are equipped to manage.

“We stress individuality and independence, which lends itself to learning in isolation,” Ewing said. “While not ideal, our students are encouraged to work at their own pace with the encouragement and support from their teacher and families. Flexibility is key and I believe COVID has highlighted the need for this type of thinking.”

  • New Morning School was established in 1973 as an alternative to traditional learning. It offers continuous enrollment for students from preschool through middle school. To learn more about the school, email to receive a personalized response.