BERLIN, Conn. (WTNH) — Summer is coming to an end and school is right around the corner for so many districts across Connecticut. 

At McGee Middle School in Berlin, Principal Salvatore Urso is looking forward to having kids back in the classroom.

“So the main difference this year, we have all of our students in on the first day of school hopefully for the rest of the year.” 

While there are still COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines in place, there are some changes from last year.

Principal Urso is glad students and teachers will be able to have a more collaborative and interactive relationship.

“It’s great that they’ll be in person because it’s really hard over remote or over television monitor to give feedback or build relations with students.” 

Thienly Nguyen, a STEAM teacher at the school, is getting excited to have more hands-on group work.

“We’re just excited to have the kids do a lot more hands-on. I know last year they were really fatigued with the online and computer work.”

This year, Nguyen has plans to have her students work together, especially with robotics and LEGOS. A new addition to the classroom will give the students space to compete against each other while coming up with their own creations. 

“We’re having the kids focus on the design aspect, testing, and revising their designs as they go along,” Nguyen said. 

Last year, students had to follow strict social distancing guidelines so they were not able to work together collaboratively or with hands-on materials. 

“We will see experiments happening in science in person, we will see some designing and building in STEAM classes and piano lab open for students that will be playing the keyboard as well,” Urso said.

Another major addition at McGee Middle School is their new courtyard.

“Now we have a nice space that students are able to use in a purposeful manner and that purpose being to build social and emotional learning,” Urso told News 8.

From ping pong tables to cornhole, these students have an opportunity to create relationships outside the classroom. Urso is hoping focusing on building relationships after such a distant year for everyone will help enhance the learning environment.

“Through those games, they learn how to win and lose and share and actually have a conversation with each other, something outside the content that happens in the classroom.”