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When states across the country began issuing stay at home orders, school districts had no choice but to temporarily close their doors and begin the scramble to find a way to continue to educate their students from a distance through the end of the school year.

For some students, particularly homeschooled students and college students, learning virtually at least part of the time is completely normal. The educators providing this type of instruction have spent years training and developing their curriculum to be effective in a virtual learning environment. The students enrolled in these classes made a choice to learn virtually. The option of virtual learning is a choice homeschool families often make when they know they have the required resources and equipment as well as the family support they need to succeed.

This sudden transition to virtual education for millions of students across the country (in many countries, actually) left a huge learning gap for traditional educators and a resource and support gap for families. In many cases, teachers had just days to figure something out to fill the gap while their schools and districts made more concrete plans for the remainder of the spring term. Once longer-term plans were made, teachers, again, had just days to learn how to use the programs that were chosen and adapt or completely change their lesson plans.

Some districts have not been able to supply their students with the technology they need. Providing Chromebooks and tablets, however, does not necessarily guarantee access to WiFi and navigating the programs, especially for younger students, requires a lot of help from parents in terms of time and organization.

Several recent reports indicate that students in low income neighborhoods and rural communities are the least likely to be participating in online education. In some cases, according to the New York Times, “fewer than half of their students are regularly participating.” Many families have not been in communication with their children’s schools at all. Teachers and administrators are worried about these students most of all — they are often the third point in a communication triangle between families and social services for students living in less-than-ideal or dangerous situations.

No household has escaped the stress brought on by COVID-19. Many work situations have changed – some are out of work while others are working more, finances and childcare are inconsistent or nonexistent, and some families are facing severe illness and death. For many families, logging-on has dropped to the bottom of the priority list if it’s even on the list at all.

From the beginning of school closures, counselors were quick to share information regarding spotting the signs of stress and depression in kids. Combine the effects of stress and depression with the one thing pediatricians always warn parents about – too much technology – and some families have had to make the tough choice to temporarily abstain from logging-on in an effort to protect their children’s mental health.

The time to figure things out for both schools and parents for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year has come to an end. Some schools have been closed for eight weeks. Schools in some states end their spring terms as early as next week. Across the country, administrators are engaged in developing plans for the fall which is likely to look different from anything our children have experienced so far. If virtual learning is a part of that plan, access and equity will certainly be addressed and, hopefully, it will all be figured out with enough time for teachers and families to gather resources and make plans.

At iSprowt, education is our number one priority. Learn more about how iSprowt is working to increase equity in education with low-tech and no-tech activities and support families in these challenging times. If you are considering donating educational gifts for kids, so that children don’t fall behind, go to our Donate the Gift of STEM page.

Mothers Day

Happy Mother’s Day! Everyone at iSprowt would like to take a moment to pay tribute to all the mothers, the grandmothers, the aunts – everyone out there who is “mom” to someone – especially now. You are amazing!

The moms at iSprowt are the calendar keepers, boo boo fixers, school volunteers, lunch makers, bike riders, homework helpers, chess match losers, sports signer-uppers, birthday planners, cookie bakers, bedtime story readers, and huggers. Now, with COVID-19, we have become teachers, virtual play date schedulers, therapists, hide and seekers, anytime story readers, snack distributors, and worriers. We knew that being moms would be challenging and, just when we thought we had it all figured out, our children’s worlds flipped upside down.

We can do this, moms! iSprowt is here to help. We are here to add a little bit of easy education and fun to your children’s lives. While your kids are busy working through the activities in the books that come in our kits or conducting one of our experiments with our easy-to-follow instructions and included supplies, be sure to take a few minutes for yourself and daydream about your kids possibly growing up to have successful and fulfilling careers in STEM. Maybe your young scientist will discover the cure for all viruses?! If you do want educational gifts for kids the good news is that it’s fun for you, too!

Trust us, moms — if you are reading a blog on a page dedicated to inspiring young minds and increasing children’s confidence in STEM, you are already doing a GREAT job! Take a moment to celebrate everything that comes with being a mom. We hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day! You earned it!

Ask any parent how they are doing during school closures and the answer they provide will likely change depending on the day, the hour, or even the minute, and it absolutely depends on their at-home situation.

Most families are doing what they can to make it work – trying to find balance between work, school, and family. They might be enjoying family time more now that there is less after school and weekend activity. Without baseball tournaments, robotics club meetings, and scout campouts, there is a lot more time for family bike rides, home movie nights, virtual meetups with friends and family, and assembling puzzles… so many puzzles!

But, after the kids go to bed, the second shift begins. This is when parents must catch up on their day after spending the day focusing most of their attention on their kids. If they have the privilege of working from home, have a co-parent or another adult in the home, and/or a child who can work independently for any period of time, they might have been able to squeeze in a few work calls during the day or respond to the most important emails, but late night is probably the only time they have to focus on a more intense project.

Many parents are losing sleep, but the causes are numerous: too much work, not enough work, too much school, not enough school, our mental health, our kid’s mental health, frustration, fear, and worry.

For some families, this is a nightmare. There is so much to worry about. Parents who are essential workers are struggling to find childcare and may be worried about exposing their loved ones to COVID-19 after stressful workdays or nights. Parents are worried about young children who are struggling with social distance and virtual school and are battling some big emotions. Parents are worried about maintaining social distance while protecting their children’s mental health. Parents are worried about paying the bills when their businesses are closed, they have been furloughed, or the work they typically do just does not exist at this time.

Surprisingly, some families have found that educating from home has proven to work well for their families. Their children are thriving with a less structured schedule, time to explore interests in-depth, and more quality time with parents and family. These parents have reached out to their current schools to ask about the process of transitioning to traditional homeschool for the 2020-2021 school year and have started researching homeschool curriculums. In some cases, staying at home is improving their family dynamic and they are excited about the possibilities. iSprowt is working toward partnering with homeschool curriculum vendors so families can use school funds to purchase iSprowt kits. If you would like to use school funds to purchase iSprowt kits, contact us so we can partner with your vendor.

If you are looking for tiny ways to improve your stress, keep your kids busy, or supplement their education, iSprowt is here for you.

  • We are here to help by providing low-cost, high-quality, low-mess, educational gifts for your kids.
  • If you are in a position to help other families during school closures, you can donate iSprowt kits to children in need and help decrease their risk of falling behind during COVID-19 school closures by purchasing a kit here and selecting “donate” at checkout. We are partnering with schools to provide donated iSprowt kits directly to the students who need them most

It’s May 4th! May the Fourth be with you!

Confused about what that means? May the Fourth is a tribute to the phrase “may the force be with you” from the Star Wars franchise and a way to commemorate the unofficial “Star Wars Day” holiday (as declared by fans worldwide).

We love this phrase at iSprowt because thinking about Star Wars makes us think about science, technology, and exploring, and the creativity that brings it all together. Now is the time to plant the little seeds that could develop into a deep love for STEM. Elementary school students are at the age where science and imagination combine to create magic.

May the Fourth

One way to plant that little seed is by sharing the movies and books that excited you when you were children. Movies and books about space inspire us to explore the world around us and beyond.

Another way to plant that seed is by providing children with the opportunity to engage in hands-on science activities. Learning by doing creates a lasting impact and just may inspire them to start dreaming about what they “want to be when they grow up”.

If your kids are celebrating May the Fourth staring straight ahead while watching every episode of The Mandalorian or going back to the classics and watching Episodes 4-6, take a little break before going to bed to look up instead. Look at the stars and imagine the possibility of exploring the world beyond our own.

Your families can look forward to exploring space in iSprowt Kit #7!

If you’d like to donate educational gifts for kids, visit our Donate the Gift of STEM page.

Happy May Day! Have you ever heard the phrase, “April showers bring May flowers”? This phrase is borrowed from a poem written by Thomas Tusser in 1157.

May 1, also known as May Day, marks the halfway point between the spring equinox (first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer solstice (first day or summer in the Northern Hemisphere). It is an ancient holiday celebrating the hope and promise of spring. The beautiful May flowers springing up all around us are a reminder that the rains in April bring forth new life.

Celebrations were rooted in agriculture and were filled with singing and dancing.

May Day celebration

Like our young scientists who are planting their herb seeds from their iSprowt Herb Garden Kit, people at May Day celebrations were full of hope – hope that their seeds would sprout and their crops would flourish. We are filled with hope today.  Hope for our children.  Hope for a healthy return to normalcy. Hope for our future.

You can still celebrate May Day today. In this time of COVID-19, consider creating a traditional basket by rolling a piece of colorful paper into a cone and filling it with homemade paper flowers. Take a photo or a video of your kids sending love and hope to friends and family and tag #iSprowt if you share on social media. Your sprouting herb garden is the perfect backdrop!

May Day flowers

 

Due to COVID-19 related school closures, iSprowt created the Donate the Gift of STEM program where you can give educational gift for kids. Consider making a donation here.

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