Amid the current debate on whether it is appropriate or not to let kids back in school, this former teacher of the Detroit public school system proves that kids can in fact learn remotely – and warning: it may be enjoyable.
When Kathryn Meloche first joined Bound Together’s efforts for COVID relief as a volunteer, she noticed how eager its Executive Director, Michele Wogaman, was to start distributing educational material during the center’s weekly food drive.
Meloche, who had worked as a science teacher for 25 years, quickly jumped in with the idea of giving out self-contained experiment kits that children could do at home with their families.
“Teachers are bad collectors,” she said. “So I had a plethora of supplies in my house that made up for much of what the kits needed.”
If the kit idea asked for supplies Meloche didn’t already own, such as batteries, she would go and buy them at the dollar store. Every science experiment idea came from her experience in organizing Science Olympiads and training students for it.
Families that came to Bound Together weekly to get their seven lunches and meals, bag of groceries and masks, would ultimately walk out with a bird feeder or an electricity circuit, as well.
The kits were separated by grade level and the activity varied each week but they always came with instructions and a literature component, either a reading or writing exercise, with the answer keys in the box.
One week, the box theme was Mystery Architecture. It came with straws, paper, tape, a plastic cup and M&Ms. The task: to build a strong enough structure that would hold the cup on top even when it was full of chocolate candy.
The next week students were in charge of observing birds and reporting on their gender. The tactic to facilitate the watching was making the kids build bird feeders using peanut butter, seeds, and pine cones. Good thing Meloche’s house is “surrounded by pine trees” because the activity was a hit.
“Parents would come and ask for more because their children really liked it,” she said.
Meloche started her career teaching science to high schoolers, but she eventually fell in love with teaching students in middle school. Today, despite not teaching in Detroit anymore, the controversy of making students and teachers go back worries her.
“I worry for the kids and I also worry for my friends who teach,” she said on the phone. “Districts that went back to in-person classes are seeing their number of cases rise. People need to understand that children are not immune.”
Meloche says she feels for all school administrators who are in charge of such a complicated decision, after all, “kids’ lives are in danger.”