Education has taken a challenging turn during the COVID-19 pandemic. For after school programs like Reaching Higher, directing resources and students have taken a whole new form of creativity.
Program Director, Brenda Weck, received the go-ahead for the “Learning at a Distance Plan” from the Michigan Department of Education. The new platform for learning and staying connected consists of both virtual and non-virtual strategies.
“We’ve had to re-imagine the entire program, while keeping the true essence of what Reaching Higher really means,” said Brenda.
Virtual learning falls under the category of anything with interaction, such as, video chats, social media sharing, phone calls and even pre-made videos. While most students have access to at least one of these forms of technology, there are still many who don’t. This has challenged staff to think “outside the box” and to create packets with positive and recreational learning activities.
Reaching Higher Site Directors like Dan Bright and Janice Morris have coordinated with teachers to expand the opportunities to more students. Dan has facilitated Zoom meetings for teachers to host daily video calls with students to help them with work, or just be there if they need someone to talk to.
“Our main focus during the pandemic is to share fun educational activities with students without adding extra stress on families,” said Dan.
In addition, teachers are calling weekly to follow-up on lessons, take attendance for activities and be there to answer any questions. Some schools have even coordinated with food services to provide meals for kids, especially in families who rely on the support.
“It’s important to remind students and families not to panic,” said Janice. “We are going to get through this together, and it will be a little easier when kids can focus on fun things to do at home.”
Reaching Higher is trying to help fill in the gaps and prevent learning loss while working with the family as a whole. Teachers are providing families with supplies and packets to keep them engaged in positive ways. Some packets contain something as simple as a deck of cards which can be used for math, art, STEM activities and games.
“We keep moving forward by empowering students and their families,” said Brenda. “We’re always trying to follow our motto by reaching higher.”