Meg Ward ’87 is the Managing Director of Education at the Living Classrooms Foundation (LCF), a nonprofit that disrupts the cycle of poverty in Baltimore and D.C. and provides hands-on education, workforce development, health and wellness, and violence prevention programming.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, LCF has worked to ascertain the needs of the families they serve, providing a wraparound support model that addresses everything from food to hygiene supplies to internet access.
One of the challenges faced with all educational programming, and Living Classrooms in particular, is that they specialize in hands-on, learning by doing. In an environment where social interaction is limited, providing students with those kinds of experiences becomes a different test. This has required creative thinking about how to distill programming into a portable, tangible item that students can access without being online.
Their solution? The STEAM activity box. Boxes contain at least five activities to represent each area of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math). As described by Ms. Ward, “All of the directions and materials that you would need are in the box – so for example, if the activity requires scissors, they are in there. The boxes are complemented by supplementary online education. Moreover, each box also contains an additional science lesson about effective handwashing, and with it, a bar of soap, and a lesson specifically about how washing your hands with soap destroys the coronavirus.”
“Last week, we distributed 2,000 boxes at our community centers and at Baltimore City Public School (BCPS) food distribution centers. This week, we will distribute another 2,000 boxes that are a collaboration between the Living Classrooms Foundation and Great Kids Farm. Next week, we will give out another 2,750 boxes, 500 of which are for children ages 3-5 in collaboration with the Y of Central Maryland Head Start Program. The other 2,250 are banded for grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. All are curriculum-aligned, having worked with the STEAM departments of BCPS to makes sure they reinforce what the students are learning in those grade bands.”
This incredible work has already demonstrated an impact. “When we dropped off the boxes at Dunbar, 300 boxes were gone inside of an hour. Afterward, we were contacted by families desperate to find out if there were more, and where they could be obtained. There is clearly a real demand for families to have something for their students that both captures their imagination and involves active learning. We would like to distribute 2,000+ boxes each week through the end of the regularly scheduled school year contingent on funding. It costs roughly $10 to produce each box and we currently only have enough funding for the next two weeks.”