Writing for the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE), Steven Hodas and Travis Pillow recently highlighted community-based learning innovations that have emerged during the pandemic and urged readers to work to preserve the best of these innovations. Excerpts of their article appear below:
Policymakers are understandably eager to return to normal as soon as possible. But it would be a mistake to pave over the hundreds of community-based innovations in teaching, learning, childcare, and health and wellness that have sprung up around the country.
The media has highlighted stories of privileged families spending thousands to create personalized learning “pods.” Less well-known is the growth of public pods, also known as learning centers or hubs, set up by community-based organizations, self–organized mutual aid groups, and freelance volunteers.
Indianapolis was one of the first communities where partnerships between the school system and local nonprofits spawned new supports for students learning remotely. The Mind Trust understood that churches and neighborhood groups had deep wells of trust in communities and worked with them to stand up small learning environments before school started last fall. Leaders at The Mind Trust and Indianapolis Public Schools are now planning for these hubs to become a durable feature of student support, one that persists long after district buildings have reopened.
In North Carolina, Edgecombe County Public Schools opened learning hubs that provide in-person learning and social opportunities to students in the district who have chosen to continue learning remotely. The district is working with principals to design a “spoke-and-hub” approach to schooling that offers more community-based learning projects and uses flexible scheduling to make schooling more compatible with students’ jobs or internships.
Many leaders hope that the structures and services they are building now will persist and fundamentally redefine how they show up for their communities.
To avert the inevitable rush to put things back just as they were before the pandemic, governments and foundations should be building evidence about which innovations—online instructional programs, tutoring programs, pods, and other student support environments—are effective, for which kids and under which conditions.