When you think of learning pods, what comes to mind?  

  Learning pods are unique and innovative ways for young children and learners to come together in a safe, cooperative way in order to promote in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic that has affected our country and many others.  In a learning pod, school students are grouped together by age and ability levels in small groups of no more than 8 or less students in order to achieve the goals outlined by their school’s recommended curriculum.  

  Although the idea of learning pods may seem like a new idea, they have actually existed before the coronavirus pandemic ever took place in other places and countries throughout the world, and learning pods have been shown to create a more personalized way of learning for many students.  Students who participated in online learning options given to them by their schools have had mixed results as far as academic achievement is concerned, and many younger children have become disengaged with the concept of online learning.  This is where learning pods come into place, because it provides students with an in-person alternative teaching option led by a teacher to help students achieve maximum educational success with the help and guidance of an actual in-person teacher.  

  Although learning pods continue to grow in popularity as a safe learning alternative for students and families, there are costs associated with the creation of learning pods that need to be considered, from paying for the teacher or instructor to teach the variety of classes, to school supplies and materials.  Although learning pods can serve to be a safe and financially-sound alternative to overpopulated classrooms for many middle to upper-class families, they can also block lower-income families from receiving the educational support they need for their children, and can ostracize families coming from lower socio-economic backgrounds.  Understanding this disparity and creating safe and affordable alternatives for many different types of families will be of prime importance if learning pods are going to be successful as learning continues into the future.  Also, this type of learning model, which is being replicated here in the United States, may prove to be a popular alternative for families who wish to provide their children with a safe and personable option to whole classroom or remote/ online learning with the help of families, communities, and teachers who strive to help children achieve wonderful academic outcomes in a socially-conscious way. 

  The following are some important tips on how to create successful learning pods for students: 

  1. Learning Pod Teachers should make close and regular phone calls or email contact with other classroom teachers involved in the child’s curriculum, and copies of the general curriculum should be provided to the learning pod teachers during the beginning of the  program to ensure that it is followed, and curriculum benchmarks are highlighted for that grade level.  This will ensure a school year where curriculum expectations are outlined and met, and students and families know what is expected to succeed. 
  2. A set schedule should be established early on to help guide students into a regular routine.  This may entail such fundamental tasks as taking students’ temperatures when they arrive at the pod learning site, to starting the day off with a salute to the flag, or sharing school meetings and important announcements at the start of each school day.  This may be customized for different types of learning pods, but having a set schedule in place will be very beneficial for the students who participate. 
  3. Take the time to visualize what the program could be by getting to know each student’s needs.  This will happen over time and includes taking a program-wide assessment to help evaluate what each student will need in order to be successful in meeting their grade-level standards while participating in a learning pod.  Also, being creative with the way materials are procured and handed out will serve to be beneficial as well. 
  4. Include social and emotional learning, health, arts and crafts, and other fun and important activities to enhance the general curriculum for all kids.