An article titled “On camera at home” that ran in the Extra section March 30 focused on the challenges for TV personalities who are broadcasting their programs from spaces in their own houses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our daughter, a first-grade teacher near Richmond, has been keeping in touch with her students via SeeSaw presentations each school day, and her set is the family-built treehouse in the woods behind their house. As she explains in the first installment, because her husband, two children and their dog are all at home, the treehouse is the only place quiet enough to be a “studio.” Her presentation includes suggestions for fun, educational activities (making a backyard treasure hunt map, graphing the types of “critters” one finds in the grass, etc.) and reading aloud from a chapter book. She is occasionally joined by a homemade sock puppet named “Chausette” (French for “sock”) with button eyes and a blue mop head for hair.
There are challenges to having the treehouse for a set. A neighbor’s barking dog, a loudly singing bird and even a carpenter bee buzzing in the corner can be distracting. But the show must go on. When weather disrupted the WiFi connection in the tree, the set moved to a swing hung below the treehouse, and the program began with the teacher singing “Swinging in the Rain” — which possibly puzzled the children but may have amused their grandparents. Damp weather frizzled the teacher’s hair one day, as she explained to her watchers. Chausette noted, with a toss of her blue mane, that SHE never had a bad hair day. Who needs hair and makeup artists?
The first-graders and their parents are tuning in regularly and answering questions about their own home-bound activities. The teacher reports their responses “on air,” so students can keep up with friends while they are physically separated, and perhaps they will not lose too much academic ground while schools are closed.
While a fairly primitive treehouse may not provide ideal production values, and the outside world does sometimes intrude, the teacher is offering her students (and their families) a very personal daily visit that supplements the online educational “packages” provided by their school system. Her students may never again meet as a first-grade class, but I bet they will remember their informal lessons and the cozy atmosphere of their own, personal visits by a familiar teacher — in her very own treehouse.