By Eric Scroggins
In response to school closures due to the coronavirus, we launched the Remote Learning Innovation Fund to help ensure all children in our region have access to vital ongoing learning opportunities and support. Teachers, school leaders, and community members are rising to the challenge with ingenuity, determination, and love. While the crisis has brought the best out in people and school communities, it has also uncovered fundamental flaws in our public education systems and put existing inequities in a new light. We wanted to share some of the examples of intrepid leadership we are seeing during these challenging times and how we are continuing to respond to the educational needs of our most vulnerable children as this pandemic continues.
Remote Learning That Is Relevant, Rigorous, And Engaging
We have awarded five rounds of Remote Learning Innovation Fund grants. To date, we funded more than $150,000 in projects proposed by individuals and teams of educators and nonprofit partnerships focused on creating opportunities for experiential learning beyond the computer, supporting students’ mental and emotional wellbeing, and increasing access to technology in targeted ways. Here is a sample of some of the projects funded:
St. Louis County Library and Ready Readers are partnering to offer free books at all food and supply pickups in North County
Atlas Public Schools is assembling and delivering 100 hands-on kits that will offer 30+ hours of learning opportunities for early childhood students
Metro Theatre Company is connecting youth with older community members through an intergenerational storytelling project supported by teaching artists to help foster empathy and connection through art
A partnership between the national teacher training program, Teach Like A Champion, and KIPP St. Louis is creating virtual training for teachers on remote instruction that will be made available to all teachers in the region
St. Louis Black Authors of Children’s Literature is aiming to improve children’s reading proficiency and promote a love of literature through live virtual readings from local black authors accompanied by hands-on activities and books
Collaboration Between Districts And Connection to National Best Practice
We completed a five-week design sprint with the School District of University City and the Normandy Schools Collaborative to develop comprehensive plans from remote learning for the remainder of the year and summer. National education consulting group, Bellwether Education Partners, led the engagement and is sharing the resource with their school and district partners nationally. Check out the planning template here. We hope other schools and systems locally will use this to refine their plans.
Supporting A Strong Restart of School Next Fall
We will continue to work tirelessly in the next few months to ensure children return to schools that are not just better prepared for the next crisis but are also more relevant and just. We are dedicating the remaining financial resources in the Remote Learning Innovation Fund to ensuring a strong restart in the fall.
We will kick off this next phase of responsive investments with a conversation with national education leaders who are the vanguard for how to restart school. In the coming weeks, we will share an invitation to this conversation. In the meantime, here are some ideas that are inspiring us about what is possible:
Responding, Recovering, and Reinventing by Transcend Education
When Students Go Back to School, Too Many Will Start the Year Behind. Here’s How to Catch Them Up — in Real Time by Steiner and Weisberg
Return to School Roadmap by Opportunity Labs