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'Noodle Belts' Allow for Fun Social Distancing at Hancock School
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
06:37PM / Thursday, November 19, 2020
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Students in Janet Tremblay's classes sport 'noodle' belts to help them social distance.

Each noodle was cut in half so the belts have 3-foot sections to remind students how close they can get.

The belts don't seem to slow them down at recess.

The children have been having fun with the belts, Tremblay said. 
HANCOCK, Mass. — A Hancock Elementary School teacher is using the power of arts and crafts to make social distancing fun for her students.
Janet Tremblay, who has been teaching Grades 4 and 5 for six years, constructed "noodle belts" for her students to assist with social distancing during recess time.
These noodle belts were completed and introduced to the students this week.
Though the belts are silly in nature, they contribute to a serious cause of social distancing that is stopping the spread of COVID-19.
"It is funny to watch," Tremblay added.
These belts are made of 2-inch wide belting material and 3-foot pool noodles, which were cut and glued to the front, back, and either side of the belts.
The noodles that protrude from the belts prevent the children from getting within 6 feet of one another because each person has a 3-foot noodle barrier around them.
Tremblay said these belts are effective, and that is the whole point.
Hancock Elementary has had in-person learning since the start of the school year and has been using creativity and diligence to keep it that way.
But Tremblay said her students don't always have a good appreciation for what a distance of 6 feet is, and this was the best solution.
Too often recess was spent nagging the kids to stay apart, which put a damper on the student's play time and was exhausting to teachers. They tried activities like races to keep them distant, but Tremblay said it was clear that a better solution needed to be made.
"It wasn't the kid's fault," she said. "Even adults find themselves going to talk to someone and getting right up next to them."
The noodle belts aren't a penalty, but an effort to create an awareness of space in a fun way. And with the use of colorful pool noodles, these belts are meant to feel vibrant and imaginative for kids.
Tremblay picked up the pool noodles over the summer, thinking that they could assist with social distancing in her classroom. She didn't know exactly what she could utilize them for, but knew they would come in handy.
She bought clips to make the belt easy to take on and off and measured the children to ensure the noodle belts fit well. Each student has a belt that is custom fitted with some wiggle room for winter coats.
Tremblay and the other teacher in her classroom took a couple of days to glue the noodles onto the belts. They made themselves noodle belts to wear when on recess duty, showing unity with the children.
There are 15 children in Grades 4 and 5, meaning that 15 noodle belts were made.
At first, Tremblay said her students dreaded the idea of belts and anxiously awaited for them to be completed, asking every day if they were ready yet.
Within the first week of the noodle belts being introduced, Tremblay said attitudes have changed and that the kids are having a lot of fun and can't wait to put them on.
The kids now run around and play games in the noodle belts, she said. She plans on buying Nerf footballs and other soft toys that won't harm the belts, as they can be damaged.
At the end of recess, Tremblay takes inventory of whose belt needs to be repaired and then fixes them.  
She said her students have adjusted greatly to schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic by wearing masks diligently, staying separated in the cohort rooms, and generally just going with the flow.
"I give kudos to the kids," she said. "Because they have been wonderful with it."
The students are required to wear a mask all day except during mask breaks, lunch time, and snack time.
"I think they completely understand at an appropriate level," she said, regarding her student's understanding of the pandemic.
Hancock Elementary has about 55 students in prekindergarten to Grade 6. All grades besides 6th are grouped together in twos because of being very small in size.
Tremblay says they are at an advantage during the pandemic because they have large classrooms and small class sizes.
The school has made COVID-19 accommodations such as transforming the kitchen into a medical emergency room in the event that a student needs to be isolated until they can go home.
At the beginning of the shutdown, the school was in a remote learning model. But it was very difficult because of the terrible internet connection in Hancock and the general struggles of being forced into a new learning model.
At one point, the school had to put a hotspot in the parking lot so that students could access internet.
Tremblay said the internet connection is in the works of being fixed, but she doesn't wish to go back to that model because face-to-face learning is best for the students and teachers. The school will attempt to stay in person unless it becomes an issue of safety for anyone.
"Being in school is best for the children, which of course is our first priority," she said. "But it's best for the community and the parents and everyone concerned."
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