Designing men: Chesapeake father and son create virtual learning space at home


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Ask 6-year-old William Johnson of Western Branch about the start of school next week and he’ll light up and exclaim “I’m very excited.”

And why not? It will be the chance to put some family teamwork to the test. William and his father Cory Johnson collaborated to create a virtual learning space in their home. It comes with its own set of rules.

“I’m not allowed to play in here, but I am allowed to learn in here,” William said.

His father wanted to draw that distinction from the very first day.

“We wanted to build something so that William could focus on class,” Johnson said.

So William and his dad went on a shopping trip, with William picking out what would be on his classroom walls — letters of the alphabet, how to tell time, days of the week, months of the year. It gave the 6-year-old a measure of ownership in his surroundings.

Part of the preparation was a lesson in labor: refurbishing a once-old table into a school desk.

“William and I went out in the garage and put our masks on and sanded the table down,” Johnson said. “We sanded the metal down, spray-painted it, put a new coat on the top of it and he was really proud, and every day he wanted to go check and see the progress.”

William likes art because he gets to “make things for my mom” who happens to be a principal at another area elementary school, and he loves to read his favorite book, Pete Seeger’s “Abiyoyo,” which involves how magic leads to the end of a monster.

Through the magic of Zoom, he’ll connect with his teacher and classmates at Chittum Elementary.

Johnson is a retired Naval officer and can work from home, so he will keep an eye on William’s progress and how well he learns in the space he helped to design.

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