Pandemic learning pods are popping up and if you’re a parent, you may be wondering, how do I get involved or even create my own pod? It can seem intimidating, especially with the added stress of COVID-19, but we’re here to help get you started. Check out our complete guide to create your learning pod!
1) Establish your goal and values
It’s important to consider your goal and values while forming the pod as this is the groundwork for your whole pod setup. Depending on your goal, you may need an educator for more or less hours during the week.
- Here are some questions to help get you thinking about your goals:
- Do you want to replace your students’ normal classroom environment?
- Do you want to support their academic progress?
- Do you want to provide enrichment to their distance learning schedule?
- Do you want more social interaction for your student?
- Do you just need some childcare while you work from home?
- Is there another goal you have in mind?
- What are the pod’s values? You will want to make these values clear when approaching families to be a part of your pod. Some aspects to consider:
- How important is it that all families arrive on time for learning to begin?
- Is it okay if a family consistently leaves early?
- Is your pod diverse?
- Are the families in your pod religious?
- What’s your parenting style?
- What teaching style is your child used to?
2) Form your learning pod structure
You’ll want to have a solid structure to your learning pod. Similar to school, these learning pods are an opportunity to have a new place for your child to feel a routine and a sense of normalcy. Here are some guiding questions to ensure you have a firm plan for what the pod will look like day-to-day.
Learning pod classroom
- What’s your desired learning or teaching format?
- Are you looking for in-home or distance learning support?
- What will the curriculum look like?
- Will the curriculum be provided by your child’s school? Or will it be created by your hired educator?
- Will any children in your pod have special needs? You will want to be sensitive to the fact that not all children may be at the same level developmentally. Be sure to keep confidential any information a parent tells you.
- You may need to find an educator that has experience with special needs students.
- What will the ages of students be in your learning pod?
- Try to keep students in pods to the same or adjacent grade level so that they can work at a similar learning capacity and bounce ideas off of each other.
- How many students are you comfortable with having in your learning pod?
- Typically pods are made up of about 3-6 students but can be as little as 2 and as large as 12 (permitting you have the space).
- Depending on your comfortability level with the pandemic, you may want to limit the number of households you allow into your pod. If you want more children in your pod, you may want to choose households that have multiple children in the same or adjacent grades.
- You can also base it off of how careful a family has been with social distancing. If you are stressed about whether a family has been social distancing, it may be best to choose a different family.
Learning pod schedule
- What will the schedule look like?
- Consider how often you’d like your pod to meet.
- Do you want to meet a few hours every week day?
- Would you prefer longer hours a few days out of the week?
- The beauty of learning pods is that the schedule is up to you. Just make sure you have a solid schedule that you stick to once the pod learning begins.
- Consider how often you’d like your pod to meet.
- Will the host pod home rotate or will it consistently be at one home for every learning session?
- You may want to consider keeping the host pod home to one location to ensure health safety and establish a routine.
Learning pod materials
- What will the learning environment be?
- Do you have a large enough space inside your home that the pod can still be distant?
- Will the pod sessions need to be held in the backyard?
- Do you have the space and allotted time to allow for both?
- Will all students have access to the same learning materials?
- Children will need their own devices, supplies, books, etc. These items should not be shared to ensure health safety.
- Do you need to provide teaching resources for your hired educator?
- Do they need a whiteboard, projector, etc.?
- What will be your budget for providing these materials and how will all parents in the pod contribute to providing these resources?
- Does your home have a strong internet connection?
- If you plan to have pod sessions in the backyard, you will need to make sure the range reaches there. It may even be beneficial to invest in a stronger signal.
- Will a parent/guardian always be home?
- If you’re going to be hosting a learning pod, please be sure that a parent/guardian will always be available and at the home to monitor for safety.
- You will also want to decide whether the parents can be a part of the learning environment. To give children more autonomy similar to a school setting, you may want to consider if your close presence is beneficial.
3) Analyze your COVID risk tolerance
Beliefs regarding the pandemic vary across the country, but one thing we can agree on is we all have our preferences when it comes to risk tolerance of COVID-19. Social distancing and diligent hygiene may be important to your family, while others may be a little more lenient on when they wear a face mask. Before forming your pod, you’ll want to know what your boundaries are when it comes to COVID risk tolerance. Here are some things to consider:
- Make sure to establish a health and safety protocol prior to the first pod session. This will be helpful to make sure everyone is on the same page and to turn back to if there are any families who are having trouble with staying compliant.
- Will everyone (students, teacher, and present parents) be required to wear a face mask or will only adults be required?
- Will students each bring their own snacks and meals?
- How often will hand washing be required?
4) Find families to participate in your learning pod
So now you know what you want your pod to look and feel like, but you still need to find some families to participate. If you haven’t already checked with parents at your school, do that first. It can be the best place to get students in the same grade together. If you’ve checked but are having no luck, don’t worry! There are a ton of resources for families popping up all over the internet. Some places to check out are:
- Your school’s resource site or social media
- Local Facebook groups
- Craigslist ads
- Nextdoor posts
- Whatsapp groups
5) Find a Teacher for your learning pod
You’ve done all the planning, you’ve connected with families to join your pod! You’re almost done, but you still need a quality educator to lead your pods and we’re here to help!
Bubbles by Swing Education will set you up with a K-12 teacher, fully vetted including background check, certification, and teaching experience. Learn more and sign-up to receive teacher profiles.
6)You have one more very important thing to consider:
This all may sound great (or you may still feel overwhelmed, don’t worry, you’ll be okay!) but while reading, have you been considering how pods can include ALL families, not just the ones with the means for pods? Be mindful and proactive about keeping your pod diverse:
- Are you opening up your space to all families that meet your safety and learning standards?
- Does your pod have the means to “sponsor” a student who doesn’t have the means to join a pod on their own?
About Bubbles by Swing Education
Bubbles by Swing Education will match parents with a qualified, experienced K-12 teacher to provide in-home education for a learning pod of two to eight students. Founded in 2015, Swing Education provides educators for K-12 schools. The company comprehensively recruits, screens, and prepares educators to fill teacher and support staff absences. To date, Swing Education has helped more than 2,500 school partners and over 5 million students. To learn more about Swing Education, visit www.swingeducation.com.
For more information on how Swing Education can help you find a teacher or pod leader, visit pods.swingeducation.com