During the pandemic, most schools have been tasked with reaching students online. However, finding way to engage, connect with, and reach students –especially those without reliable internet access or tech devices–has been an extraordinary challenge. Now, educators and local tv stations have teamed up for a creative solution to engage students at home.
Nearly every weekday morning, Valentin Vivar curls up in bed next to his older sister, Araceli, and switches on one of his favorite television shows.
The hourlong program, “Let’s Learn NYC!”, isn’t typical children’s fare. Valentin, 5, watches as educators from New York City public schools teach math and science, sing songs and take viewers on virtual field trips to botanical gardens and dance performances. Araceli, 17, is there to help out.
After the coronavirus pandemic shut down their schools in March, the siblings attended virtual classes from their apartment in Queens on Araceli’s iPhone. Their parents could not afford another device, and their class attendance was sporadic because sometimes both had school at the same time. Valentin, who needed speech therapy, was missing out on conversations with classmates, and he was struggling to pronounce words.
Then a teacher told them about the television program, and Valentin was hooked. He sounded out letters and words and formed strong bonds with the teachers he saw onscreen.
Now, Valentin “wants to read books by himself, and he’s writing new words,” Araceli said. “I really like to see him learn and grow.”
Around the country, educators and local television stations have teamed up to help teachers make their broadcast debuts and engage children who are stuck in the doldrums of distance learning. The idea — in some ways a throwback to the early days of public television — has supplemented online lessons for some families, and serves a more critical role: reaching students who, without reliable internet access or a laptop at home, have been left behind.