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2020 Fall/Winter Highlights of Hope

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EDUCATION Van Andel

EDUCATION Van Andel Institute for Education helps students, teachers adapt to distance learning The abrupt closure of schools to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic created monumental challenges for students, teachers and parents. Educators were under immense pressure to shift to online distance learning, and families hurriedly rearranged their daily routines to accommodate the new learning environment. This shift posed big questions for Van Andel Institute for Education. Months of planning for student and teacher programs, which largely take place at VAI’s Education labs in downtown Grand Rapids, went out the window — the in-person learning experiences that underpin the Institute’s educational offerings were no longer possible, so VAI’s Education team had to get creative. “Switching to virtual on a dime definitely posed some obstacles, but we thrive on problem-solving; so, we embraced the challenge and discovered innovative ways to keep both students and teachers fully engaged in remote environments,” said VAI Chief Education Officer Terra Tarango. “Within weeks, we had students conducting science right out of their homes and we supported more than 600 teachers with meaningful projects that they can lead via remote setting.” Keep Curiosity Alive The day after schools shut down, Education rolled out a dynamic resource called “Keep Curiosity Alive,” curated in Google Docs. It linked to numerous thoughtful activities that could be done at home and was updated every week throughout the remainder of the school year with new items. In the course of days, hundreds of people accessed the document for fun and innovative projects. It was a welcome resource for both educators and parents who were themselves learning how to adapt to virtual-only learning. Virtual student programs Student summer camps normally are held in-person at the Institute, over the course of a week. This summer, VAI transitioned to a virtual format to engage students from the safety of their homes. The Blue Apple goes virtual The Institute’s educators adapted each of VAI’s Blue Apple project-based learning units — originally designed for in-person learning — to include instructions for how to conduct them virtually or in a blended learning environment. After schools closed to in-person learning, the Institute piloted this new approach by rolling out a virtual version of the “Prevent the Spread” Blue Apple project, where students learn about germs and their own unique ability to stop the spread of illnesses like COVID-19 by adopting good hygiene practices. The projects are available for purchase at blueappleteacher.org. 8 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE

“Switching to virtual on a dime definitely posed some obstacles, but we thrive on problem-solving; so, we embraced the challenge and discovered innovative ways to keep both students and teachers fully engaged in remote environments.” — Terra Tarango Institute’s educators created supply kits that were safely picked up by families at VAI’s Education building, so that virtual learning could still be hands-on and inquiry-based. The Institute also is adapting its popular Afterschool Cohort and Science on Saturday programs to be held virtually. Teacher programs go online The Education team has hosted professional development webinars since 2017. At the outset of the pandemic, Education adapted the webinars to help teachers and administrators grappling with how to effectively implement distance learning. Over the summer, Education saw explosive growth in registration and participation, with 1,462 registrants between April and August. TERRA TARANGO meetings, and sessions can be delivered as one-hour, in-person or virtual meetings. This allows VAI to meet educators’ needs in terms of content, schedule and budget. To learn more about Van Andel Institute for Education’s student and teacher programs, visit vaei.org. This fall, Education’s professional development seminars for teachers will be offered virtually. VAI’s Flex PD offers an assortment of topics important to educators in a variety of formats. Full-day workshops can be delivered in-person or in a series of virtual VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE HIGHLIGHTS OF HOPE | 9

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