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LAUSD Meets Students Where They Are with Spanish Instructions and Engaging STEM Materials Delivered Directly to Students’ Homes

Published October 29, 2021
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LOS ANGELES, CA – “Meet them where they are.” This phrase represents the chasm that educators must bridge between where students are in their understanding and where they should be based on grade-level placement. This gap can be particularly pronounced in school districts with multiple nationalities and high percentages of English language learners (ELLs), requiring teachers to search extensively for relevant, engaging lessons to meet eager but remote, struggling learners due to COVID-19.

Such is the case in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the second largest district in the country with more than 628,000 students. Latinos make up 73.4 percent of the student population, followed by 10.5 percent White, 7.5 percent African American, 3.9 percent Asian, 2 percent Filipino, and 2 percent other.

During his term as LAUSD superintendent, Austin Beutner had a vision to create summer learning experiences that would engage elementary and middle school students more meaningfully. He worked with former LAUSD board member and current LA-area education strategist David Tokofsky, who had recently come to learn firsthand about Pitsco Education’s hands-on STEM materials.

“I got a couple Pitsco kits and worked with my second-grade niece in the living room over Christmas break, and I could see how everybody in the family was involved,” Tokofsky said. “Somebody was reading the instructions, the kid was implementing it, I was helping with the right connections, and everybody was asking questions. It was a real winner.”

Hearing a pitch from an educational materials supplier wouldn’t have been enough, said Tokofsky, who, during his 12 years as a school board member, would thoroughly vet proposed curriculum solutions. “In the old days, it would be seeing is believing. In the case of Pitsco, touching and doing is believing.”

When Pitsco Education presented its STEM Explorer Pack (Grades K-5) and STEM Creator Pack (Grades 6-8) as options for the LAUSD STEM Summer Enrichment Program, officials insisted that teacher and student guides, aligned with standards-based science content, be available in both English and Spanish in order to meet students where they are.

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Due to the district’s pivot to remote instruction for summer school, shipping the individual kits directly to homes was also necessary, so that participating K-8 students would be able to build up to five projects and complete 15 challenges and activities over several weeks during the summer.

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In final preparation for this innovative program, Pitsco developed and provided live web-based professional development sessions to approximately 25 LAUSD teachers who then remotely facilitated the STEM Pack lessons.

“Students worked through each project with the teacher,” said Pitsco Educational Services Manager Aubrey Vance, who conducted one of the PD sessions. “The teachers were supplied with a box as well as supplemental components such as images and videos to enhance their teaching of the boxed STEM kits.”

Officials were particularly pleased that students from across the district were able to participate easily because boxes were shipped to personal addresses and instruction was delivered remotely, enabling students to learn from anywhere. For example, one student participated in a remote session while on travel in Taiwan, where they had taken their STEM Pack.

The Pitsco STEM Pack portion of the summer enrichment program was most effective, according to district officials, because it kept students engaged from the beginning of each hands-on activity through to its completion.

Pitsco Education and local provider K20associates are extremely proud of their ability to collaborate with LAUSD to customize and successfully implement the creative STEM Pack solution targeted at making learning in the classroom or at home a more engaging, educationally rich experience for students.

“Right now, the biggest issue in California is families of elementary-age students for whom there’s not yet a vaccination signing up due to COVID fears for independent (at-home) study,” Tokofsky explained. “I don’t know that they’re getting the instruction, the materials, and the learning necessary. Pitsco is poised to help schools and school districts in the pandemic where families are keeping their kids at home.”

“Pitsco customer service is friendly, personable, professional, and no matter what you call about, your issue is always resolved. We love Pitsco!”

– Jennifer Rivenbark, CTE teacher, Wallace Elementary School, Wallace, North Carolina

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