The voice of California’s charter school movement

SD Charter School Teacher's Creative Use of Tech Keeps Kids Engaged

By Ana Tintocalis

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to move to a distance learning model, educators were understandably concerned about keeping students engaged in coursework. Science teachers who use laboratories and hands-on experiments had an even greater challenge.

Carla White, an eighth-grade science teacher at Magnolia Science Academy in San Diego, a California Distinguished School, didn’t worry, though. The charter public school at which she has taught for the last three years is among the most agile, student-focused campuses she’s ever seen.

White knew that school administrators would embrace her ideas about using technology to enhance learning for Magnolia’s 441 middle school students.

Before the pandemic, White had already seen how her curating videos on various disciplines brought lessons to life for students. She engaged her students through video content prior to classroom study. She said that as a result of watching the videos, her students “were hooked and engaged before I even started.”

Donuts Crew2

When in-person teaching ended last March, White began digging even deeper into video production and technology so her students wouldn’t miss a beat.

“When we started the school year 2020-2021, we took advantage of the hype of live streaming on YouTube to provide orientation to students, parents, and teachers to prepare them in navigating the online learning spaces and be familiar with distance learning,” White said. “These virtual orientations are another way to bring our community of stakeholders together to ensure we provide quality education during the pandemic.”

White’s passion extended beyond the virtual classroom. She also hosted an online Celebration of Science that featured professionals in three spaces in engineering: computer science, civil engineering, and biotechnical engineering.

Additionally, White created a virtual platform for live science talks, guest speakers, student projects, science scavenger hunts, and other resources to deepen scientific knowledge. She even created a YouTube channel that featured Magnolia Science Academy Wizards:


As a 21-year veteran of the classroom, White also knows how important it is for students to feel connected to their school community. With the inherent risks involved with moving from in-person to distance learning, she extended the innovative use of video production, streaming technology, and social media to reimagine the morning announcements.

Magnolia students began tuning in for Morning DONUTS (Daily Online News Uncut Through Streaming), a live broadcast that built community through student broadcasts, “This Day in History,” special guests, holiday greetings, month-long celebrations such as Black History Month, Earth month, trivia contests, and more. Those videos were also posted to the school’s Facebook page, allowing students to engage by commenting and liking the videos.


Of the Morning DONUTS broadcasts, White said, “apart from community engagement, the social emotional component of our morning broadcast is also an integral part of this effort because we connect with students using infotainment relevant to our students' school life.”

“We want students to feel connected even when we can’t see each other face to face,” she continued. “There are several things this pandemic has taught us----the importance of taking care of one another, the importance of our mental health, relationships over content and most importantly, a sense of belongingness while we find ways to stay connected in the virtual spaces. Through our different virtual events, daily broadcasts and social emotional learning activities, we brought the school to our students in their homes.”

To learn more about Magnolia Science Academy in San Diego, visit its website.