Learning Pod Impact
Many students rely on public schools, not only for education access, but also for basic needs such as meals, mentorship, socialization, and healthy day-to-day structure. After the pandemic caused all in-school learning to cease, teachers and parents struggled to find the resources needed to keep students learning, engaged, and cared for. After summer break, several students fell through the cracks while families experienced financial hardship. We saw the barriers that some families were experiencing; this devastating time urged us to find a way to do something to help those families.
In September of 2020, through collaboration and partnership with the Anchorage School District (ASD), Camp Fire had the opportunity to serve families with the highest need of assistance. The development of the Learning Pod Program allowed Camp Fire to provide childcare and resources to get kids back on track with their education. The first Learning Pod Program was opened at Chester Valley Elementary and two other locations quickly followed. The following is written by Chester Valley principal, Meghan McCarthy-Grant:
I would like to share a few thoughts about what Camp Fire’s partnership meant to the Husky Pack! Camp Fire sponsored Learning Pods in our school building starting in September of 2020 when our schools were still closed to in person learning. The Learning Pods supported our parents and community by giving our students a safe environment to conduct their remote learning. This was critical to many of our students’ ability to access their education remotely and critical for our parents’ ability to ensure their children were receiving an education. The pandemic has been a dark time for many of us, but Camp Fire was a light in our time of darkness. One parent that I spoke to about this opportunity replied, “I didn’t know the community cared so much about us!”
Now that buildings are open for in-person learning to K-5, the partnership has moved into a new phase where Camp Fire staff works with us during the day caring for and supporting students. Chester Valley recognized the Camp Fire staff’s ability to connect with students and wanted to keep that connection as students were reintroduced back into the building full-time. In addition, Camp Fire, is operating a morning and afterschool program which supports our family’s work schedule, and focuses on STEM related experiences through another collaboration with the 21st Century program. Camp Fire and Chester Valley are combining our resources to better support and serve students before, during, and after school. Camp Fire’s partnership has made it possible to provide education during a worldwide pandemic and watching the Camp Fire staff care for children through the entire pandemic gave us the courage to know, IT CAN BE DONE! Thanks Camp Fire! GO CHESTER FIRE!
The learning pod program goes so far beyond a singular youth development program or point of impact for youth and families. Camp Fire staff and Anchorage School District teachers and administrative staff are working so closely in partnership that it really is functioning like a joint program—two entities entwined in providing the best and most holistic level of support to youth and families. We couldn’t be more grateful for the partnership. We’ve even joked about combining school names with Camp Fire to create….. “Chester Fire”
-Camp Fire Alaska Chief Operating Officer, Melanie Hooper
All of us at Camp Fire Alaska are excited about this opportunity to serve youth and families in such an impactful way. We are sincerely grateful to ASD for this partnership and to the United Way of Anchorage for their financial support – together we are creating meaningful experiences for our youth.
-Camp Fire Alaska CEO, Barbara Dubovich