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2020 Annual Report

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  • Scientists
  • Education
  • Michigan
  • Epigenetics
  • Vai
  • Institute
  • Virtual
This is the 2020 Annual Report for Van Andel Institute.

From cohort to college:

From cohort to college: Analis Floyd ANALIS FLOYD Analis Floyd tromped through the Grand Rapids-area marshland, searching for crawfish and other animals that she could observe in their natural, swampy habitat. At times, she reached down to take water samples, to test for bacteria and other water quality indicators. This wasn’t a traditional research mission, spearheaded by an environmental agency or a university. Analis was in grade school at the time, and she was out in nature with Van Andel Institute for Education’s Afterschool Cohort. Analis joined Afterschool Cohort in the 2006 school year. Her elementary school principal noticed her academic gifts and recommended her family sign her up for the program, which is open to students in grades 4–7. Afterschool Cohort immersed Floyd and her fellow students in engaging experiences and thought-provoking experiments designed to help students learn to think and act like scientists by applying the scientific method — proposing a hypothesis and testing it. Analis remembers conducting experiments to learn about bacteria on lizards and how different soils and fertilizers affect plant growth. At the end of each semester, students would present their findings to each other, which helped Analis develop her public speaking skills. “Afterschool Cohort opened up a lot of opportunities for me academically,” said Analis. “Being that young and super curious, I was exposed to a lot that I wouldn’t have been exposed to, being an inner-city kid in Grand Rapids.” Analis’ early introduction to the scientific method through Afterschool Cohort helped her throughout her education. At Grand Rapids City High School, she took advanced biology classes. She earned a pre-physical therapy degree from Aquinas College. As of spring 2021, she was close to completing her master’s degree in biomedical sciences at Grand Valley State University while working at Grand Rapidsbased Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy. “To graduate from my master’s degree program, I have to propose a thesis and then defend it,” said Analis. “I have to do research and experiment design and use the scientific method. Because I did it so much growing up and during Cohort, I know what to look for and how to make things clear and concise.” Visit for more information about Afterschool Cohort. The program is offered at no cost thanks to the generous support of a VAI donor. 26 | VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020

VAI helps bring the classroom to everyone EDUCATION Classrooms have the power to transform lives. They serve as the epicenter of society’s collective efforts to develop and encourage young minds to thrive in an increasingly fastpaced world. When the pandemic struck, it challenged traditional classroom learning and required education to happen nearly everywhere besides the classroom: the dinner table, the kitchen counter, the spare room-turned-home office. Van Andel Institute for Education was uniquely poised to meet this challenge head-on. The Institute provided exceptional support to educators and families in a deeply stressful and uncertain environment. Our sharp, nimble staff of expert educators quickly responded and adapted to shifting trends in K–12 education. Learning couldn’t miss a beat, and we amped up our work. Teachers who had spent precious time mapping out in-person lesson plans needed new material for the world of distance learning. From the outset, VAI buckled down and transitioned our programs to virtual and, when necessary, a hybrid format for virtual and in-person settings. VAI’s educators also created “Keep Curiosity Alive,” a carefully curated and continually updated list of online lessons and science experiments. Student summer camps moved online, and in order to combat “Zoom fatigue,” the Institute incorporated elements that would get students up, moving and away from the computer. Afterschool Cohort, one of our most popular student programs, also moved to a fully online format. The Institute launched a series of webinars where teachers could connect with our expert educators as well as each other to discuss best practices in new learning environments, and VAI’s Flex PD teacher professional development programs went virtual with great success. The Institute created online and hybrid versions of Blue Apple project-based learning units, so teachers could use them in whatever environment best suited their needs. We also offered new Customized Virtual Science Experiences, giving parents and teachers crucial access to on-demand science lessons. So many of society’s most cherished institutions — our schools included — were significantly impacted by the pandemic. It challenged teachers, parents and students to rethink what a learning environment looks like. Van Andel Institute for Education’s pivot to virtual made sure they were supported when they needed it most. DIRECTOR & CHIEF EDUCATION OFFICER TERRA TARANGO VAN ANDEL INSTITUTE ANNUAL REPORT 2020 | 27

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