How the Kentucky Avenue School kept the fun of STEM alive—no matter where students were learning.
Like most schools around the country, the Kentucky Avenue School (KAS) started the Fall 2021 school year with both distance and hybrid learning models. Committed to keeping students and teachers safe, the administrators at KAS, including principal Aimee DeFoe, developed a responsive plan to the changing circumstances brought on by the pandemic. But as an independent school focused on teaching a rigorous curriculum through both traditional and innovative methods, it was critical to find a way to maintain this high quality learning environment no matter where that learning was going to take place. “It was crucial to us to continue to provide our students with meaningful opportunities for real-world problem solving and computational thinking even when students were learning at home due to the pandemic,” said Principal DeFoe.
Students were given VEX GO Kits to take home while they were completely remote at the start of the school year. While this meant students worked through the STEM labs without a partner, and the STEM labs often took longer than they would have in person, students enjoyed being able to build the physical robots. Aimee noted that, “Giving students the VEX GO kits to work with at home really raised their excitement and level of engagement and made hybrid STEM much more successful than it could have been otherwise. Getting deep engagement in online teaching is quite challenging, and having the GO kits immediately raised interest and communication levels.” Students also learned to take care of their kits, and to be responsible for keeping track of the components. Being remote also facilitated students to be more independent in their troubleshooting and problem solving, which increased confidence.
Sudden changes in the learning environment and shifts from remote to in-person learning are challenging to navigate, especially when teaching a new robotics program. KAS teacher Emily Spark found teacher support—via the website and experienced VEX users—was critical to getting organized and prepared to teach.
The circumstances of COVID-19 challenged educators to find new solutions for teaching and learning in a complex and changing time. Aimee DeFoe reflected on the process and how teachers were learning as they went along with students, and that they have learned many lessons about delivering hybrid STEM learning. While Aimee believes having students in the classroom to collaborate and learn from one another is preferable, teaching with VEX GO in a hybrid format maintained student engagement and excitement in a challenging time.
The success of implementing VEX GO robotics was in the multiple ways it supports flexibility in changing learning environments.
This case study shows that there are several key factors that are needed for educational tools to fully support a hybrid learning model:
- Engaging and authentic activities to spark student excitement even when at home
- Easy organization and mobility to support frequent transitions in learning environments
- Differentiation options for teachers to augment lesson plans quickly and easily
- Extensive teacher resources and support
Where we learn may change based on ever-shifting circumstances, but the quality of students’ education does not have to change, as we’ve learned from the example of the educators at the Kentucky Avenue School.