By GABRIELA DOW | Downtown & Uptown News
As millions of parents and children throughout the world suddenly find themselves providing and participating in education at home, “Learning in the Time of Corona” — a grassroots Facebook group — has emerged as a platform to connect parents and exchange resources, tips and inspiration.
The group was created by Del Cerro parent Allison Harris-Turk on March 13 with the goal of simply connecting with other parents in her situation. Within just a few weeks, the group grew to over 14,600 in more than 50 countries, including Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Mexico, India, Germany and Italy.
The group is grounded around the goal of creating a community that empowers and engages parents, grandparents, childcare providers, colleagues, friends and others with ways to connect and create an engaging environment for learning at home during the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Whether it’s through hosting custom watch parties, sharing editable templates, creating dedicated threads to centralize discussions or connecting each other to topics of interest, the ultimate goal is to just support each other as some of us become what we have termed ‘suddenly teachers’ in an uncertain time,” Harris-Turk said.
The group shares content freely with a central theme of building community amidst the isolation of this dramatic and sudden change.
Harris-Turk anticipated the school closures and felt the need to collect and centralize the many disparate educational resources and tools floating around various digital platforms. As a working mom of three with a middle school teacher for a spouse, she knew there would be challenges to create any sort of “distance learning environment” in the weeks ahead. But, she also realized many Americans (and people around the world for that matter) were going to be in a much more difficult spot.
Among the questions Harris-Turk had upon hearing of school closures were: How do we keep our kids learning, safe, engaged, entertained, connected when schools are closed, after-care is shut down, playdates/birthday celebrations are postponed, and enrichment activities are suspended? How do we take care of the underserved youth in our communities that need our help now more than ever? How do we continue to make the best decisions for our families when the data is ever-evolving? How do we stay centered and calm, yet vigilant and informed?
“I knew we needed to consolidate, come together, and create a platform where people could share lesson plans, humor, support, inspiration, tips, etc.,” she said.
It was then that she launched the virtual group, just one hour after San Diego Unified School District announced the school closures to help contain Coronavirus / COVID-19. The group gained momentum quickly, instantly shared by family, friends, and colleagues. Within hours Learning in the Time of Corona had 1,000 members and after three days grew to 5,000.
Today, there are more than 14.600 members with over 100,000 interactions. Its San Diego roots have spread deep and wide, encompassing people from across the globe reaching over 50 different countries.
Harris-Turk attributes the rapid growth to the group’s structure.
“Learning in the Time of Corona functions as a hub, an exchange, a connector. It is not a content generator, but a people-to-people platform that has attracted experts in many fields, including those in education and mental health who generously and eagerly lend their tools, expertise, and wisdom to those who need it,” she said. “This is not a place for imparting COVID-19 scientific knowledge or medical advice, but strictly serves as a space to share educational resources and tools, humor and inspiration, as well as ways to support each other and the underserved youth impacted by the school closures.”
The growth trajectory and lively interaction has illuminated the fact people are craving information, further, and perhaps more importantly, community. Many members have expressed this is a valuable resource as they no longer travel to places of work, are concerned about even having employment and are juggling working, staying healthy, obtaining food and essentials for the home, as well as managing distance learning for their children.
The activity on the site has inspired the formation of an incredibly dedicated and talented global committee.
“It wasn’t hard to find amazing people to join the committee, though, because so many are willing to help and recognize we are all in this together,” Harris-Turk said.
Group committee member Cortney Golub adds, “We are restricted from seeing friends and family, from visiting public parks and playgrounds. We have been thrown into a topsy-turvy world that none of us saw coming. But this new, uncharted darkness has room for light. And that is what Learning in the Time of Corona brings forth — a passionate, supportive community where hundreds of people contribute content daily with a recognition that there is no right way to do any of this.”
Kensington resident Golub was first invited to the group on March 17.
“I immediately accepted because I, like many of our members, was suddenly thrusted into the world of being a Pre-K teacher to my 4 1/2-year-old twins, one who has special needs, and I had no idea how to embark on this endeavor. Despite being a career high school educator for 18 years, I needed help and support teaching my little ones,” Golub explained.
After she successfully completed a science experiment explaining germs to her preschoolers on day one, she contacted Harris-Turk to offer her help. She has since been made a moderator, so she makes sure members are following the group rules and content stays on topic.
“I hope it continues to serve as a place of respite, connection, education, and community for our nearly 15,000 members. We continue to align the vision for the group with the needs of the community,” Golub said. “Right now, our focus is on ensuring members have access to the learning tools and resources they need, can find essential support if they need it, and know how to give-back to their local community if desired.”
Anyone is welcome to join the Learning in the Time of Corona community. This is a place for humor, different perspectives and fresh ideas to support parents, families and children worldwide.
The group can be found online at facebook.com/groups/LearninginCorona.
— Gabriela Dow is a communications specialist in San Diego. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.