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Frost Science Museum answers parent’s needs with Museum Pods

Posted By Josie Gulliksen
September 29, 2020 at 7:08 PM

Frost Science Museum Educator is on hand to assist a student in the Museum Pods program. Photo courtesy of Frost Science Museum.

The coronavirus pandemic in essence made school from home the new way of education for all Miami-Dade County students.

Not to be confused with homeschooling, parents and students found themselves in unchartered territory, quickly needing to learn how to navigate online school.

Coming to the rescue  – the educational department at the Phillip and Patricia and Frost Science Museum and the Museum Pods.

The Pods program was created so that until schools reopen, students from kindergarten through fifth grade K – 5 can come to the Museum to complete their daily virtual school program while under the supervision of a Frost Science Educator.

The educator provides basic technical support and supervision throughout the day as well as homework assistance. Students are placed in a private group with nine students maximum, forming a pod.

“This was done in response to the current school situation and since we’d had a very successful in-person and virtual summer program, it was simple to implement,” said Director of Educational Programs Daniella Orhiuela. “Our team knew there was a need for it after speaking to various parents, so it’s a way of providing a service to the community that needs it.”

Coming fresh from summer camp, they launched the Museum Pods program on the first day of school, August 31. “We decided, let’s go for it and that was the right decision because we’ve had a pod group that’s been with us since the very first day,” said Daniella.

Capitalizing on being able to teach small groups, the instructors are there to ensure the students are moving around between classes, getting a snack, are able to log on virtually and getting their homework done.

The program was not without some first week kinks though where there were definite learning curves “for teachers, students, administrators and even the school system,” she said. “We tried that first week to make sure students stayed engaged and on task. Everything from doing flash cards to other interactive activities.”

Response to the program since that first week has been incredibly positive said Daniella, who has spoken personally with many of the parents.

“The parents have been very appreciative and happy with the experience,” she said. “And the students like making new friends and exploring the museum which is a nice perk and incentive after finishing their homework.”

The program can accommodate a maximum of three to four pods but at the moment they have not reached our limit so “we can still accommodate anyone who wants to participate as long as we abide by the nine students in a pod,” said Daniella.

Student in Museum program Pods focuses on his assignment. Photo courtesy of Frost Science Museum.

The schedule is as follows:

Staff begins prior to 8 a.m. so they are ready to greet the students as soon as they begin arriving.

Students need to be seated in the Museum’s Knight Learning Center, where the program takes place, and be ready to start by 8:30 a.m. At this point the educator assigned to that pod knows what each student needs.

Then, depending on the student’s age, the day ends either at 2:05 p.m. or 3:05 p.m. Once classes end, students are assisted with their homework, as necessary.

“The educational teams at the Museum help each other out so we’re keeping track of each student all day until they are picked up,” said Daniella. And that pick-up time could be around 6 p.m. when their aftercare program ends.

It’s also ideal for parents “in need of any kind of childcare or who want their kids to be able to socialize and complete their schoolwork, this is a good solution until school reopen. We’re here to help out as needed,” said Daniella.

And parents are indeed appreciative of the program as expressed by kindergartner Sophia Ada Reid’s parents:

“The Frost Pod program has been an outstanding resource and learning program for our five-year-old daughter. The attention and care provided by the staff has been the best we have experienced,” they said. “Our daughter has enjoyed being part of the museum program and looks forward to engaging with the staff and other kids. We as working parents could not have been more blessed than to be part of this unique and wonderful program during this critical period in our lives. Thank you Frost!!”

Museum staffers are equally pleased because “we love providing this program for the museum, it’s given us an opportunity to run an educational program throughout this challenging time,” said Daniella. Also, “we like forming those bonds so they continue coming to the museum and enjoying these exhibitions.”

When school does eventually re-open the Museum will continue to host their popular mini camp on teacher planning days, which happen about once a month.

Visit the Frost Science website for full details on the Museum Pods program and other virtual and in-person programming and exhibitions.

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