- The pandemic drastically changed the way students learned in 2020.
- Some schools shifted to online classes, while others moved lessons outdoors.
- Teachers added plastic partitions to their classrooms, children wore face masks, and temperature checks became part of the regular routine for in-person learning.
- Insider collected some of the most powerful education photos from 2020 to highlight how the school system adapted.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Learning in 2020 looked drastically different for both educators and students.
For many teachers and students, 2020 started out with a sense of normalcy.
But that quickly changed as the novel coronavirus began spreading around the world in the first few months of the year.
In March, lockdowns forced schools to close, and families transformed their living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchens into makeshift classrooms.
Schools closed as countries around the world began imposing lockdowns in March.
Classes shifted online, and parents quickly took on a new role as an educator, like Alice's family in Santo Andre, Brazil.
Amanda Perobelli captured this photo of a 5-year-old studying from home after the country closed schools and imposed a lockdown back in March.
Government officials and educators spent the summer discussing how to safely reopen schools.
Over the summer, teachers, students, families, and educators took to the streets to protest against schools reopening for in-person learning.
Photographers captured powerful images of protesters and their signs.
Rick Bowmer's photograph featured Brittany Goddard, a Utah-based teacher, protesting the district's reopening. She holds a sign that reads, "We can't teach from the grave."
Many schools reopened for in-person learning and students went back to the classroom.
Students were welcomed back into the classroom this fall, but it wasn't without major changes, as Business Insider's Taylor Borden and Juliana Kaplan previously reported.
For example, Darsi Green's second-grade class began eating lunch outside to curb the spread of the virus.
Kent Nishimura snapped this photo on a gloomy day at Weaverville Elementary School in Weaverville, California.
For educators, it often meant teaching both online and in-person classes.
School districts around the world wanted to provide families with options, and many students were given the choice to come into the classroom or learn from home.
For teachers, that often meant teaching a group of students online and in-person at the same time.
In this photograph by Ahn Young-joon, a teacher in South Korea records an online lesson for her students.
The pandemic also brought new fear and new stress to educators.
Teachers, both in the classroom and teaching from their homes, were met with entirely new stressors this academic year. The first week of classes involved stress, exhaustion, and confusion.
Beyond fearing their safety, teachers had to learn new online platforms, find innovative ways to engage students, and work with families like never before.
Ariana Cubillos captured this image of a teacher grading homework while wearing gloves. While some students could learn online, most students lacked the technology and internet connectivity, and relied on trips to the school to continue their education, according to AP.
Teachers and students weren't the only ones who faced changes; custodians took on the huge responsibility of cleaning and disinfecting schools.
Beyond the temperature checks and plastic partitions, many schools employed new standards of cleaning — and that responsibility fell to custodial staff.
In this picture, taken by Donat Sorokin, a serviceman in the Russian Central Military District disinfects a classroom before students arrive.
Some schools moved classrooms outdoors.
Scientists suggested that the risk of infection is lower outdoors.
With that in mind, many schools moved their lessons outside. This happened in record time as educators scrambled to build outdoor classrooms.
In Kathmandu, Nepal, schools discussed how to conduct board exams for students. The answer: dozens of desks in the playground.
Prakash Mathema captured this bird's-eye view of the scene in November.
However, things looked drastically different inside classrooms.
This photograph of students in Nepal was captured by Prakash Mathema.
The image resonated with people around the world as face shields and face masks quickly became the norm inside the classroom.
At this school in Bangkok, Thailand, students wore face masks and were separated by plastic cubes.
Schools around the world added new safety restrictions to their in-person classrooms, from plastic partitions to temperature checks.
This photo, taken by Lauren DeCicca, showed how different playtime looked for these kindergarteners in Bangkok, Thailand.
Before, they could share toys and interact with each other. But this fall, the school required social distancing, and students played from the confines of a plastic cubicle.
New elements were added to the school routine, like regular coronavirus tests.
Some schools required students to get tested regularly as part of their reopening plan.
Ridho captured this photo of a school in Surabaya, Indonesia, testing all students and teachers ahead of in-person learning.
Other students were greeted with thermometers every morning.
Paul Bersebach photographed the first day of classes at St. John's Lutheran School in Orange County, California.
Beyond wearing masks, students' temperatures were checked at the start of the day.
Lunches also felt isolated as students were required to sit 6 feet apart during their afternoon break.
Students typically look forward to lunch, which provides a chance to eat and chat with friends.
This year, the afternoon breaks looked different. For many schools, lunch moved outdoors.
Suzanne Kreiter photographed this lunch at Woodland Elementary School in Milford, Massachusetts, where students stayed inside and socially distanced.
Even the bus ride home looked shockingly different.
Schools came up with ways to keep every element of the day socially distanced, including buses.
For some schools, it meant having designated seats on the bus, and others increased their vehicle fleet to decrease capacity on each individual bus.
Here, Kent Nishimura photographs a student sitting by herself.
Major life accomplishments, like graduating from high school, were reimagined.
As the end of the school year approached, it became clear that large graduation ceremonies would be canceled.
Many schools hosted graduations at drive-ins, like this high school in Hinsdale, New Hampshire.
Brian Snyder photographed these graduating seniors, who wore their caps and gowns, and gathered in a socially distanced manner to mark the end of their high-school career.
A school in New Hampshire took an unconventional approach to graduation and sent students and families on a ski lift.
Joseph Prezioso captured this image of seniors at Kenneth High School in North Conway, New Hampshire, who celebrated graduation from atop a ski lift.
In Manila, Philippines, one school hosted a "cyber-graduation."
Aaron Favila photographed the "cyber-graduation" that took place in May at a school in Manila, Philippines.
In order to avoid large gatherings, the school's 179 students graduated virtually.
Students and families still found ways to celebrate canceled proms and senior nights.
Schools in the US canceled prom. But some families were still adamant about finding a way to celebrate the milestone.
Patrice Toussaint, a senior at Edward Murrow High School in Brooklyn, New York, still dressed up for the canceled event.
Stephanie Keith captured the moment her mother placed a crown on her head.
"I've been planning for four years. I was going to have a send-off party with a barbecue and a red carpet. I was going to have two dresses and wear a crown," the mother told Getty.
And most of the school year wasn't easy.
For families, a lack of reliable internet became a barrier to education.
Lucy Nicholson snapped this photo of Anely Solis' family. Her two children worked from school-issued computers, but they faced Wi-Fi challenges from their home in Los Angeles, California.
Solis' family wasn't alone in the problem. In the US, 4.4 million households with children didn't have adequate Wi-Fi at the start of the school year.
For districts across the country, it was a race to get students computers and access to Wi-Fi.
Teachers found ways to continue classes, despite a lack of technology.
In New Dehli, India, a group of students without laptops needed for online classes learn from mats on the ground.
Anindito Mukherjee photographed the students learning from a construction site in the country's capital in December.
Other teachers had to face silent classrooms, and their only interaction with students was virtual.
Classrooms were eerily quiet in many schools around the world this semester. Many schools shifted to a virtual platform, where students would learn from their computers.
For example, Yasen Georgiev's classroom in Varna, Bulgaria, was empty this fall.
Hristo Rusev snapped a photograph of the teacher as he taught online students at the Regional Health Inspectorate.
Meanwhile, students spent more hours in front of screens.
Students spent even more time in front of screens as classes moved online.
Ricardo Castelan Cruz photographed a teenager staring at a laptop and television during her online school day in Mexico City.
Teachers searched for ways to explain the novel coronavirus to students.
Frank May photographed a school teacher in Osterode, Germany, as she answered questions about the novel coronavirus.
Educators also tried to keep students warm and safe as winter months approached.
Ventilation is a key approach to curb the spread of the virus in classrooms, but as temperatures dropped, it became harder and harder for classrooms to keep windows open.
For example, in this class in Dortmund, Germany, students don't take off their coats when they arrive at school.
They wear heavy coats, hats, and gloves as they learn throughout the day, as shown in this photograph by Ina Fassbender.
Other teachers didn't face weather challenges but instead had to find new approaches to learning.
Throughout this entire pandemic, experts have worried about the impact masks will have on the development of students.
This is especially true for Vanessa Andrieu, a teacher of French sign language. Fred Scheiber photographed her wearing an inclusive mask in her classroom as she taught students at Sajus school in Toulouse, France.
Another challenge schools faced was making sure virtual students had access to meals.
More than 30 million students across the US relied on schools for breakfast and lunch, but as classes shifted online, schools needed new ways to get students food.
One approach at Muhlenberg Elementary Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, was to provide grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches.
Ben Hasty captured this image of school employees distributing the racks of brown-bag meals to families.
Even something as simple as hugs came to an end this school year.
Emilio Morenatti snapped this photograph as teachers raced to stop two students from hugging at their school in Barcelona, Spain.
Teachers and staff quickly learned that social distancing was going to be a hard, yet necessary, thing to enforce as schools reopened.
But it wasn't all bleak, as some schools still found innovative ways to connect and celebrate students.
For example, schools in Hagerstown, Maryland, hosted a "senior ride" to celebrate graduating students.
After prom and graduation were canceled, local families organized the ride.
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds shot this photograph of Madey Hill, a senior embarking on her ride from the back of a truck.
And some students learned they preferred class outdoors.
With unconventional approaches to education this year, it meant that some students had the chance to learn in nature.
This photograph, taken by Jeff Pachoud, shows a child frolicking through a field during a break in his outdoor school in southeast France.
Students still made incredible strides, and photographers were there to capture the moments.
Yasmine Protho graduated from Chattahoochee County High School in Cusseta, Georgia.
With only nine other classmates, her school was able to have a more "traditional" ceremony.
Brynn Anderson took this photograph of Protho on her graduation date in May.
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