“Teaching in a virtual environment is new and sometimes difficult terrain even for the most talented educator. The goal of the program is to equip teachers across the country with the tools and techniques to be superb at their craft as they step up to the unique challenges of distance learning,” said Chris Cerf, co-founder of NSSI.
According to leading research, traditional summer school programs often fail to produce a lasting effect on educational outcomes because of inconsistent attendance or inadequate program length — both challenges that social distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus make even more difficult to overcome.
The NSSI is designed to address these challenges by connecting students to some of the best educators from around the country for five weeks of content-rich learning. The curriculum includes large and small-group instruction and complements critical-thinking classes with science, dance, and yoga, as well as self-directed study.
The NSSI also introduces the concept of “mentor teachers,” educators who have a record of exceptional results and are recognized nationally for their engaging teaching. “Mentor teachers” team up with local “partner teachers” who help provide the one-on-one instruction students need.
Partner teachers at NSSI are equipped with an array of resources every day: a lesson plan, student-facing materials, teaching slides, and a video of their mentor teacher that they can play in class. In addition, teachers meet daily by video conference with their mentors to prepare for the next day’s lesson, to analyze their students’ work, and to receive training about how to use the tools and resources produced by mentors.
Through virtual engagement with these talented, experienced instructors — and with individualized assistance from local partner teachers — this innovative program can give students the support they need to stay on pace in their education.
The NSSI has already recruited more than 10,000 students to participate in this groundbreaking experience. And thanks to the lead investment from Stand Together Trust, the NSSI plans to continue developing its curriculum and partnering with school districts and youth organizations in order to reach more communities across the country.
“We’re encouraged by the innovations we’ve seen across America during the COVID-19 crisis to help kids continue to learn outside traditional classrooms,” said Meredith Olson, vice president of K-12 initiatives at Stand Together. “This partnership between Stand Together Trust and NSSI will provide students and teachers with the support and tools to thrive outside the classroom this summer.”
As the debate about reopening schools in the fall continues, the NSSI is an example for how schooling from home can be implemented, including more live, online instruction and engagement from teachers, and less burden for parents trying to guide their children through lesson plans and activities. Organizers say the program can be adapted for school districts and schools which plan to go online in the fall and want to offer effective distance learning.
The NSSI’s five-week online program began on June 29th and serves students in grades three through eight at 53 schools and organizations. To learn more about this innovative approach, including how to get involved, check out their website.