If you had asked parents how they felt about “pods” just a few months ago, you probably would have received an answer about gardening or green bean recipes.
Now, learning pods are one of the hottest topics among parents and educators this school year — some even going so far as to call them “the future of education.”
Also known as “pandemic pods” or “micro-schools,” learning pods are small groups of students who gather under the guidance of a teacher or instructor to learn and play together.
Pods started popping up last spring as schools across the country shut their doors due to COVID-19. Parents were struggling to balance full-time childcare with their full-time job., Many families discovered they could pool resources and form a quarantine “bubble” to help through the pandemic.
With no COVID-19 vaccine yet available, learning pods have only continued to grow in popularity as parents remain hesitant to send their children back to school.
More than 40,000 parents have formed a community on Facebook to network and ask questions while educational providers, including KidzToPros, have launched structured and safe versions of the learning pods.
So, what’s all the buzz about? Explore some of the top benefits of learning pods below.
1. Personalized learning
When schools tailor instruction to individual needs, skills and interests, students achieve greater growth.
However, personalized learning can be difficult for schools to implement. It is nearly impossible for a teacher to deliver individualized lessons to each student in a classroom of 25 or more kids.
Learning pods, like homeschool cooperatives, are small enough that personalized learning is engrained in the culture.
Learning pod teachers have the time and opportunity to deeply understand each student’s strengths and weaknesses, and then develop personalized lessons catered to those abilities.
Are traditional schools safe this year as the number of COVID-19 cases continue to climb in many parts of the country? The jury (and the science) is still out on that question.
The CDC has encouraged schools to open because of critical roles they play in communities — as a safe and supportive environment for students, as a job for teachers and support staff, and as childcare for parents.
However, even school districts that have attempted to re-open using the most stringent safety protocols have experienced outbreaks in the first few weeks, resulting in classrooms being quarantined or a return to online-only instruction.
By nature, learning pods are safer than traditional classrooms because of the small number of students. KidzToPros pods take it a step further by creating and enforcing health and safety guidelines provided by Dr. Michael Stuart of the Mayo Clinic.
All KidzToPros students undergo daily screening for COVID-19 symptoms, including a temperature check and regular monitoring for other flu-like symptoms. Each pod home site is also provided with guidance on how to space desks or tables and how to sanitize surfaces.
3. Small-Group Instruction
Although small-group instruction is possible through distance learning by using technology like Zoom’s breakout rooms, most teachers are delivering lessons to the entire class at once.
Learning pods, on the other hand, focus on individualized instruction while incorporating small-group activities.
Small group instruction is so effective that even ancient Greek philosophers including Confucious and Socrates used the method to guide discussions.
Students tend to gain a deeper understanding of content when working in a small group, as it is easier to explore what they understand and which concepts are still unclear.
Working in small groups has also been shown to encourage teamwork, inclusivity and collaboration — all skills that will help students succeed in their life and future careers.
Learning pods may be “small” groups, but the socialization they provide is immense.
The social isolation caused by COVID-19 has been hard on everyone, but the burden is especially heavy on children. Many of them walked out of school one day last March and haven’t seen their friends since.
Early research indicates that more than one third of adolescents felt a high level of loneliness due to the pandemic, which can be harmful to mental health.
Learning pods offer a solution to that loneliness. Although the top priority of most learning pods is educational growth, many also focus on the social and emotional well-being of the students. Learning pod participants can take a break from school to play in the neighborhood park or enjoy a snack together.
The calendar and daily schedule of traditional schools are set by a school board, and families must plan their lives accordingly. In fact, parents who fail to abide by the school’s set schedule can face truancy charges in court.
Learning pods offer more flexibility in terms of scheduling.
KidzToPros Learning Pods, for example, offer a variety of schedules ranging from two-hours per day to full-day sessions, meeting three or five times a week.
How to Join a Learning Pod
KidzToPros offers four types of learning pods, which are each highly customizable to meet the needs of each student within the pod.
Designed to support children who are enrolled in their school’s remote learning program. These pods support and supplement the school’s existing curriculum. A credentialed teacher will work with a pod of students to ensure they understand their schoolwork and complete their assignments.
Similar to a homeschool cooperative, Micro-school Pods are designed for students who are not enrolled in their local school’s learning program and wish to rely purely on a KidzToPros credentialed teacher for grade-level learning. The KidzToPros teacher will set up grade-specific curricula, provide necessary materials and continually assess each child’s progress.
For families looking for meaningful activities beyond the learning hours, KidzToPros Enrichment Pods will guide groups of up to eight students through STEM, arts and sports activities. A trained in-person instructor will work with families at home and in the neighboring parks and recreational facilities.
The newest KidzToPros pod offering is designed to keep kids active after school, leading to lifelong physical and mental benefits. Park Pods meet in neighborhood parks and are led by energetic, passionate coaches who introduce students to everything from soccer to lacrosse.
Want to learn more about KidzToPros Home Learning Pods? Visit our website for information and details about upcoming webinars.