When the entire world was turned upside down with the pandemic, schools were moved online. Students who originally received meals, supervision, etc. from schools are now missing these essential things, while something new has become essential: access to a computer with internet. Schools are doing their best to provide computers to students, but some modified education plans have been created in order to help students without computer access keep up with their curriculum. This not only affects school but also extracurricular programs like STEM outreach. Outreach groups have been working to modify their events to an online platform, but, when it comes to students without a computer or stable internet, how can we modify our plans to reach these children and families?
Paper and pencil is how everything was done before technology and is something we can return to as a solution to the challenges we are facing today. Catherine Gurecky, a SWE Outreach Committee Member, suggests creating a take-home “outreach packet” for the student. Groups that originally held events where they purchased kits or resources to create activities for children could write the instructions and a lesson, print them out, and put them in a packet with the necessary materials for the student to complete on their own. Then donate these kits to schools or local libraries so that students have a variety of ways to pick them up. If usually it is provided during the event, you can even add a snack for the students! If funding for these materials is a problem, provide simply the instructions for activities that can be done with items commonly found in their own homes. Click here to learn about activities that students can do with common household items.
Another alternative to paper instructions is creating videos and distributing them in ways that do not require the internet. Students that may not have internet access may have access to a TV or DVD player. This NBC article discusses a PBS broadcast of local teachers which helped reach out to their students and provide lessons for those who did not have reliable internet access. Although not everyone will have access to broadcasting materials, outreach members could create a DVD by recording videos in their own home and compiling them to be distributed to students. Using a video could help present background information in a way that is more engaging for kids as well as it allows them to see activities that might be too expensive to be sent home with the students. This can help bring back the visual aspect of learning.
If tv access is not an option, another great idea is to distribute STEM-related books to children. If there are any funds remaining from outreach events that were not held, they could be used to purchase books that can be picked up from local libraries or schools. Libraries themselves might be willing to donate some books for the cause. With how much technology is being relied on in today’s society, the amount people are reading has gone down. This could be the time to help rest children’s eyes from staring at the screen all day. Click here for a link to a list of STEM-related books.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is that not all students will be learning the same; what might work for one student might not for another. It is important to not only reach out to students without internet access but to also find a way to receive feedback from them. For each outreach event/packet, try to attach a letter, paper and a stamp so that the kids or their parents/guardians can write back what did or did not work as well as suggest some ideas of how things can be improved!
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