Campus Martius hosts online students

MARIETTA – Snow and cold temperatures closed school for many area students Thursday, but class was in session at the Campus Martius Museum for children from all around Ohio.

Ohio Connections Academy, an online community school with approximately 3,300 students enrolled around the state, held a family engagement activity at the Marietta museum that drew about 170 students, family members and teachers. Around 300 originally RSVP’ed, but the weather cut into the numbers.

Still, it was one of the larger student groups the museum has welcomed, said Glenna Hoff, education and program director at the museum.

“We’ve had over 100 at a time, but mostly maybe in the 80s,” she said.

One challenge this group presented was the diversity of ages, with students from kindergarten to 12th grade.

“We were able to work it out. We have a good team of volunteers,” Hoff said.

Topics, often accompanied with hands-on activities, included weaving, quilting, candle-dipping, military drill, pioneer clothing, quill-writing, surveying and transportation.

Seventh-grader John Brogan II, of Gibsonburg, near Toledo, enjoyed touring the home of Rufus Putnam, one of Marietta’s founding fathers, located entirely within the museum. He was particularly struck by the beds, and how many people they were supposed to sleep.

“They’re kind of small. It’s as big as my bed,” he said. “It’s kind of interesting how they’re going to fit three people in that bed.”

Ohio Connections Academy has multiple family engagement activities each year at locations throughout the state. Campus Martius was chosen for its location in the southeast region, but some of Thursday’s participants came from three or more hours away.

“I wanted to have the time with my daughter, and it just sounded like something interesting,” said Stacy Shanahan, 43, of Kettering. “It’s been a very good experience for us so far.”

Marietta resident Amber Heiss, 31, said she’s taken her children, Madisyn and Landon, to OCA activities at a Columbus Crew soccer game and the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland in their first year of enrollment. She was pleasantly surprised when she learned the next one would be right in their backyard.

“It was nice (that) we didn’t have to get up really early and drive really far,” Heiss said.

The sessions allow her to pick the brains of other parents, especially those with multiple children enrolled.

“You get to talk to the other people who have done it more,” she said.

Students interact with their teachers and classmates online through secure channels, but the engagement activities add another level, said Marie Hanna, OCA superintendent.

“It’s educational, but it’s also a time for them to have some social interaction with the other kids,” she said.

Second-graders Grayce Garinger, of Chillicothe, and Cordelia Mendenhall, of Belpre, had never met before Thursday, but found they had something in common besides being OCA students. Both enjoyed the quilt-making activity at the museum.

“You got to, like, glue the quilt,” Mendenhall said.

“That’s my favorite part, too,” Garinger piped up.

The activities can also benefit teachers, said Anna Trachsel, OCA principal.

“To actually be physically next to the person, the teacher can learn a lot more about the student,” she said.

Online community schools receive state funding, do not charge tuition and provide a computer for students at no charge.