Recognizing Hispanic National Blue Ribbon Schools

Since 1982, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program has recognized public and private schools based on their overall academic excellence or progress in closing the achievement gap among student subgroups. Each year the U.S. Department of Education celebrates the achievements of these great American schools. Throughout its 38-year history, the program has recognized over 9,000 schools and this year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognized 367 schools nationwide.

Of the 367, 47 honorees are schools serving a Hispanic student population ranging from 40 to 100 percent located in 14 states and the District of Colombia.

Hispanics make up 26.8 percent of all K-12 public school students and 11.3 percent of all private school students. These National Blue Ribbon Schools are leading the way in preparing Hispanic students for academic success. The White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative (Initiative) celebrates each one for this national recognition. The Initiative congratulates the administration, staff, teachers, families, and communities that collaborate to ensure Hispanic students are succeeding. These schools are models for other schools with a high or growing Hispanic population on achieving excellence in academic achievement and closing academic gaps. The variety of programming within these schools demonstrates that when students are placed in the education setting that best fits them, excellence follows. The Initiative looks forward to further highlighting these schools and sharing their success.

The 2020 National Blue Ribbon Schools with a high Hispanic student population are:

School City State
Mexicayotl Charter School Nogales AZ
Phoenix Union Bioscience High School Phoenix AZ
Alliance Judy Ivie Burton Technology Academy High School Los Angeles CA
Carleton P. Lightfoot Elementary School Alta Loma CA
Coyote Canyon Elementary School Rancho Cucamonga CA
James Monroe Elementary School Bermuda Dunes CA
LaVerne Elementary Preparatory Academy Hesperia CA
Ward (E.W) Elementary School Downey CA
South Street School Danbury CT
Oyster-Adams Bilingual School Washington DC
Miami Arts Studio 6-12 at Zelda Glazer Miami FL
Somerset Academy Middle South Miami Miami FL
Somerset Academy Miramar South Miramar FL
H.R. McCall Elementary School Waukegan IL
Hodgkins Elementary School Hodgkins IL
John Hancock College Preparatory High School Chicago IL
Northside Elementary School Saint James MN
HCST County Prep High School Jersey City NJ
Lillian M. Steen School Bogota NJ
Gil Sanchez Elementary School Jarales NM
Pinon Elementary School Santa Fe NM
Veterans Tribute Career and Technical Academy Las Vegas NV
South Bronx Classical Charter School Bronx NY
Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design Brooklyn NY
Frederick Elementary School Frederick OK
Marvine Elementary School Bethlehem PA
Alvarado Elementary South Alvarado TX
Desertaire Elementary School El Paso TX
Dr. Wright L. Lassiter Jr. Early College High School Dallas TX
Early Childhood Development Center Corpus Christi TX
Early College High School Farmers Branch TX
Edward Roberson Middle School Houston TX
Edward Titche Elementary School Dallas TX
Heights Elementary School Laredo TX
Henry W Longfellow Career Exploration Academy Dallas TX
High School for Law and Justice Houston TX
Hobbs Williams Elementary School Grand Prairie TX
John Z. Leyendecker Elementary School Laredo TX
Kelly-Pharr Elementary School Pharr TX
Maude Mae Kirchner Elementary School Quemado TX
Memorial Elementary School Houston TX
Reilly Elementary School Austin TX
Texas Academy of Biomedical Sciences Fort Worth TX
Transmountain Early College High School El Paso TX
Vista Academy of Austin-Mueller Austin TX
Windsor Park G/T Elementary School Corpus Christi TX
Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy Houston TX

 

In addition, the Department annually recognizes outstanding school leaders from National Blue Ribbon Schools through the Terrel H. Bell Award. This award recognizes principals for their vision and collaborative leadership style that have transformed their schools. This year, the Department recognized 10 remarkable principals. Three of the principals were Latinas:

The Initiative congratulates these Latina school leaders for their achievements.

Celebrating Hispanic-Serving Institutions

In celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s important to recognize the contributions of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and the remarkable impact they have had on communities across the country. The Hispanic-Serving Institutions designation was first created in the Higher Education Amendments of 1992. The statutory requirement for an institution to qualify as an HSI is that it must be an eligible public or private non-profit institution of higher education and have the enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students. This requirement ensures that HSIs are supporting first-generation and/or low-income Hispanic students.

With over 60 million Hispanics  in the United States, and 3.6 million of them postsecondary students, here are some fast facts about HSIs.

HSIs have been critical to making the promise of a postsecondary education a reality for many Hispanic students and to increasing the number of certificates and degrees attained by Hispanic students across the country. They have helped provide important pathways for in-demand jobs, apprenticeships, internships, fellowships, mentorships, and work-based learning initiatives through public-private partnerships and have partnered with their local school districts to offer dual enrollment programs. These and many more innovative contributions of HSIs are worth celebrating not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but all year long.

School Choice: What it means for Hispanic Families

As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, we recognize the critical role education plays in creating and increasing Hispanic prosperity. It has been a commitment of the Administration and the Secretary for the duration of their tenure in office to empower Hispanic parents with access to information and to quality school choice options, regardless of their zip code.

Hispanics are strongly in favor of school choice.  A recent poll showed that 68 percent support the concept of school choice and of allowing parents to use tax dollars designated for their child’s education to send their child to the public or private school which best serves their needs. When asked more specifically about tax credit scholarship programs, 70 percent of Hispanics are in support

Beyond the surveys, Hispanics are demonstrating their support of school choice by taking advantage of educational opportunities whenever available. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, Hispanics made up one third of all charter school students, and over 1 in 10 were enrolled in private schools in 2017.  Of all students in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program, 38 percent are Hispanic. In Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program, that number is 21 percent and in our nation’s capital, 12 percent of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship participants are Hispanics. In short, Hispanic families not only overwhelmingly want school choice, but when given access, they exercise that choice and their children benefit. As the Wallstreet Journal editorial board observed, about 90 percent of DC Opportunity Scholarship recipients graduate from high school compared to 69 percent of DC public school students.

President Trump and Secretary DeVos agree that Hispanic families as all American families deserve more options now than ever to find the right fit for their children’s education. The President has called on Congress to fully pass the School Choice Now Act, as part of any new COVID-19 relief package. Among other provisions, the School Choice Now Act  will ensure every state can fund K-12 scholarship programs for eligible students, so that students can remain in their schools of choice regardless of economic disruptions, and so that families can have choices should their public schools refuse to provide in-person options.

In addition to the Corona Virus-related emergency appropriations, the bill would establish a permanent, federal tax-credit scholarship program, that would offer federal taxpayers dollar-for-dollar tax credits for any contributions they make to Scholarship-Granting Organizations (SGOs), with the total amount of tax credits capped at $5 billion per year. Since the tax credit encourages new, private donations, it does not hurt public schools or take funds away from their teachers or students.

This issue is so important to the Hispanic community, that the first action the recently appointed President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity took, was to release a statement calling for educational choice including the option of full-time, safe, in-person learning in response to the COVID-19 crisis. They recognized that the negative academic and economic impacts of the one-size-fits all decisions of many school districts across the nation disproportionately harm Hispanic students.

The future of School Choice looks much brighter after the landmark Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which held that states could not exclude religious institutions from participating in programs that subsidize private school tuition. In effect, the ruling dealt a severe blow to any  Blaine Amendments remaining in state constitutions across the country as Attorney Erica Smith, who was co-counsel on the case noted, “will allow states across the country to enact educational choice programs that give parents maximum educational options.”  Now more than ever, opportunities for Hispanic parents to choose the education that fits their family values and their children’s academic and social needs are within grasp.

6 Things Students Need to Know During the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

This was crossposted from the U.S. Department of Education blog, Homeroom.

Whether you’re currently in college for a few years or have recently returned to college, we understand this is a time of uncertainty. You may be wondering how the impact of the COVID-19 emergency affects your federal financial aid. Below, we’ve outlined flexibilities that are available to students during this time.

1. Tuition Refunds and Credits

Due to COVID-19, some schools closed and many classes moved online or were cancelled.  As a result, your school may offer you a refund that you can use to pay existing loan debt or a credit that you can use to pay for future education-related expenses. For more information about your school’s current policy, contact the office of the bursar or your financial aid office.

If you accepted a larger loan amount to help pay for room and board but your situation has changed due to COVID-19, you can return part of the aid you received to lower your total balance owed. Talk to your school for more details.

2. Federal Financial Assistance

CARES Act Emergency Grants to Students

On March 13, 2020, President Trump signed into law the CARES Act, which provided additional funding to institutions of higher education to make Emergency Cash Grants available to eligible students. The purpose of these grants is to provide financial support to students who may have experienced disruptions related to COVID-19.  The grant may be used for tuition, housing, food, childcare, supplies, computers, transportation, and other education-related expenses. For tax purposes, these grants are considered emergency assistance (not financial aid grants or scholarships).

These grants must be paid to you in cash (which could include a pre-paid card or other electronic method) and should be used at your discretion to pay for necessary expenses. For example, your school couldn’t apply your grant to outstanding balance on your account without your permission. Additionally, these grants should not be subtracted from your financial aid eligibility or award.

Your school may develop its own formula for determining who should receive an Emergency Cash Grant, and not all students are eligible.  Your school is required to disclose on its website how it is distributing these funds, how many students have received this grant, and how many dollars have been distributed to students.  Reach out to your financial aid office to see if you are eligible to receive an Emergency Cash Grant during the fall term.

Federal Financial Aid Adjustments

Although schools are not required to adjust federal financial aid awards, they can consider your special circumstances, such as unanticipated loss of income, and make appropriate adjustments to your aid award.

If this applies to you, contact your financial aid office immediately for information about how to request a special circumstances review.

Restoring Grant and Loan Eligibility

Both federal grants and federal student loans have maximum lifetime limits, meaning that once you’ve received the maximum amount, no additional aid will be available to you. If you withdrew from college due to COVID-19, you may be eligible to have Direct subsidized loans, TEACH grants, or Pell grants you received during that term excluded from your maximum limit. This means your eligibility for future TEACH grants or Pell grants will be restored.

It is always a good idea to check your lifetime utilization to be sure you do not run out of aid eligibility before you complete your program. Log in and view your dashboard to check your Federal Pell Grant Lifetime Eligibility use.  Learn more about lifetime limits and how they are calculated.

Federal Work-Study (FWS) Wages

If you were denied FWS wages for a job you started and were displaced from due to COVID-19, check with your financial aid office to see if you can be paid those lost wages now.  If you did not start your FWS job prior to March 13, 2020, and have been denied an opportunity to work because of COVID-19, check with your school’s financial aid office to see if there are other campus-based aid dollars available to replace lost FWS wages due to COVID-19.

3. Flexibilities for Continuing Enrollment During COVID-19

Approved Leave of Absence

If your travel-abroad program was cancelled or you became ill, your school may have offered you the opportunity to apply for a leave of absence.  If granted such a leave, your school may transfer the financial aid you received for that term over to your next term.  Contact your school’s financial aid office to find out more about the current leave of absence policy and financial aid options available.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

You must meet your school’s standards for satisfactory academic progress (SAP) toward a degree or certificate in order to continue receiving federal financial aid. Satisfactory academic progress may include completing a certain number of credits within a given period of time and may also include meeting minimum grade point average (GPA) requirements.  If you believe that your failure to complete enough credits or meet minimum GPA requirements was the result of COVID-19, you should contact the school’s financial aid office to explain your situation.  The CARES Act provides some exceptions for students who failed to meet SAP due to COVID-19 hardships or interruptions.

4. 0% Interest Period and Historically Low Interest Rates

Direct unsubsidized loans normally accrue interest while you’re in school.  However, from March 13, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, the interest rate on all U.S. Department of Education (ED) owned loans was temporarily lowered to 0%.

Tip: If you can afford to make payments during this period, you will pay off your loan faster and lower the total cost of your loan over time.

To find out what type of loans you have, follow these steps:

  1. Visit StudentAid.gov/login.
  2. After you log in with your username and password (FSA ID), you will be able to see your loan(s) listed on the StudentAid.gov Dashboard.
  3. Click “view details.”
  4. Scroll down to the “Loan Breakdown” section. If your loan(s) is owned by ED, you will see “DEPT OF ED” before the loan servicer’s name. These are the loans eligible for the 0% interest rate.

After Dec. 31, 2020, the 2020–21 federal student loan interest rates will apply. These are among the lowest fixed interest rates in federal student aid history.

Despite these low interest rates, always be sure to limit your borrowing to only what you need. To help you decide how much you can reasonably afford to borrow for school, use the College Scorecard. It has data for some schools on your potential salary after completing certain fields of study.

5. Transferring Schools

If you’re considering transferring schools or enrolling at a different school during COVID-19, research school-specific data with the College Scorecard. If you’re looking for a school in your area on the College Scorecard; click “Show Me Options” and select “Schools Near Me” to search within a set number of miles from your location.

Be sure to review how many credits the new school will accept based on work you already completed. If you plan to return to your regular institution after COVID-19, verify that credits earned at the school you plan to attend temporarily will be accepted by your home school.

Tip: Confirm that transferred credits will count toward the requirements of your major, not just as electives or general education requirements.

6. Postponing Your Education

If you’re thinking about delaying your education (e.g., taking a “gap year”) or pausing your education, here’s what that could mean for your financial aid.

Disclaimer: This article contains general statements of policy under the Administrative Procedure Act issued to advise the public on how ED and Federal Student Aid (FSA) propose to exercise their discretion as a result of and in response to the lawfully and duly declared COVID-19. ED and FSA do not intend for this article to create legally binding standards to determine any member of the public’s legal rights and obligations for which noncompliance may form an independent basis for action.

_________________

This article was written by Miranda H., a Digital Engagement Strategist at the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Federal Student Aid.

Summary of the Initial Meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity

This week, the President’s White House Hispanic Prosperity Commission convened to tackle issues related to the Hispanic community such as school choice, reopening schools, access to capital and reducing barriers to Hispanic small business. President Trump’s Executive Order on the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative established the Commission to advise the President on the best ways to increase access to educational and economic opportunities for Hispanic American students, workers, and communities.

The Commission addressed the importance of having the option of reopening schools for Hispanic students in a statement: “We call for the choice of educational options for Latino students across America, including in-person schooling, commensurate with all relevant CDC and other health guidelines. We Hispanic commissioners know that Latino children in America are disproportionately harmed by the lack of options that best fit their educational style, and their families should be given the right to choose how to educate their children.” For more information, click here.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza addressed the Commission and shared the importance of educational and economic opportunities for the Hispanic community.

The Commission created subcommittees to focus on educational opportunities, access to capital and identifying regulation barriers to Hispanic small businesses, EEOC accessibility, and identifying federal resources for the Hispanic community.

From Left: Commissioner Robert “Bob” Unanue, Commissioner Alfredo Ortiz, Commissioner Steve Cortes, Special Assistant to the President Dr. Andrea Ramirez, Commissioner Jose Fuentes Agostini, Commission Chairman John Sanchez, Commissioner Mario Rodriguez, Deputy Assistant to the President Jennifer Korn, Commissioner Jesus Marquez, Commissioner David Olivencia, Commissioner Casandra Garcia Meade, and Senior Advisor to the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative Emmanuel Caudillo

Hispanic Commission calls for choice of educational options for Latino students across America

At their initial meeting this week, the President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity released the following statement:

“We call for the choice of educational options for Latino students across America, including in-person schooling, commensurate with all relevant CDC and other health guidelines.

We Hispanic commissioners know that Latino children in America are disproportionately harmed by the lack of options that best fit their educational style, and their families should be given the right to choose how to educate their children.”

President’s Advisory Commission on Hispanic Prosperity

Appointed by the President, the Commission is composed of outstanding individuals with relevant experience or subject matter expertise in promoting educational opportunities and economic success in the Hispanic American community.

 

Bar Chart Race: Changing Demographics in Postsecondary Enrollment

This was crossposted from the NCES Blog.

Last month, we released a blog post showing the changes over time in public elementary and secondary school enrollment by race/ethnicity. Now, we’re taking a look at the changing demographics of postsecondary enrollment. The visuals below, which use data from an array of sources, depict the changes in fall enrollment of U.S. residents in degree-granting postsecondary institutions from 1976 to 2028 by race/ethnicity. It should be noted that the predicted enrollment does not take into account future impacts from the current coronavirus pandemic.


 

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), “Fall Enrollment in Colleges and Universities” surveys, 1976 and 1980; Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), “Fall Enrollment Survey” (IPEDS-EF:90-99); IPEDS Spring 2001 through Spring 2018, Fall Enrollment component; and Enrollment in Degree-Granting Institutions by Race/Ethnicity Projection Model, 1980 through 2028.


Here are some highlights from the data:

  • 1976: Of the 10.8 million U.S. residents enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, some 9.1 million, or 84 percent, identified as White. Lower percentages of postsecondary students identified as Black (10 percent), Hispanic (4 percent), Asian/Pacific Islander (2 percent), and American Indian/Alaska Native (1 percent).
  • 2002: The percentage of postsecondary enrollment made up of White students dropped below 70 percent.
  • 2003: Postsecondary enrollment of Black students surpassed 2.0 million for the first time in history.
  • 2006: About 17.2 million U.S. residents were enrolled in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, a 23 percent increase since 1996. Over this 10-year period, Hispanic and Black students had the largest increases (68 and 51 percent, respectively), compared with Asian/Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and White students (41, 32, and 13 percent, respectively). However, White students still accounted for 67 percent of total U.S. resident enrollment in 2006.
  • 2007: Postsecondary enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed 2.0 million for the first time in history.
  • 2010: U.S. resident enrollment in postsecondary degree-granting institutions peaked at 20.3 million.
  • 2012: Enrollment of Hispanic students surpassed enrollment of Black students, making Hispanic students the largest minority population enrolled in postsecondary education.
  • 2028: It is projected that enrollment of U.S. residents in postsecondary institutions will increase slightly between 2016 and 2028 (from 18.8 million to 18.9 million) but remain lower than the all-time high in 2010 (20.3 million). In 2028, it is projected that 52 percent of U.S. residents enrolled in postsecondary institutions will be White, 21 percent will be Hispanic, 15 percent will be Black, 7 percent will be Asian/Pacific Islander, 4 percent will be of Two or more races, and 1 percent will be American Indian/Alaska Native. The Census Bureau estimates that in 2030, roughly 56 percent of the population will identify as White, 14 percent as Black, 21 percent as Hispanic, 7 percent as Asian, and 4 percent as of Two or more races (https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2020/demo/p25-1144.pdf).

By Rachel Dinkes, AIR

Bar Chart Races: Changing Demographics in K–12 Public School Enrollment

This was crossposted from the NCES blog.

Bar chart races are a useful tool to visualize long-term trend changes. The visuals below, which use data from an array of sources, depict the changes in U.S. public elementary and secondary school enrollment from 1995 to 2029 by race/ethnicity.


Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), “State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary and Secondary Education,” 1995–96 through 2017–18; and National Elementary and Secondary Enrollment by Race/Ethnicity Projection Model, 1972 through 2029.


Total enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools has grown since 1995, but it has not grown across all racial/ethnic groups. As such, racial/ethnic distributions of public school students across the country have shifted.

One major change in public school enrollment has been in the number of Hispanic students enrolled. Enrollment of Hispanic students has grown from 6.0 million in 1995 to 13.6 million in fall 2017 (the last year of data available). During that time period, Hispanic students went from making up 13.5 percent of public school enrollment to 26.8 percent of public school enrollment. NCES projects that Hispanic enrollment will continue to grow, reaching 14.0 million and 27.5 percent of public school enrollment by fall 2029.

While the number of Hispanic public school students has grown, the number of White public school students schools has steadily declined from 29.0 million in 1995 to 24.1 million in fall 2017. NCES projects that enrollment of White public school students will continue to decline, reaching 22.4 million by 2029. The percentage of public school students who were White was 64.8 percent in 1995, and this percentage dropped below 50 percent in 2014 (to 49.5 percent). NCES projects that in 2029, White students will make up 43.8 percent of public school enrollment.

The percentage of public school students who were Black decreased from 16.8 percent in 1995 to 15.2 percent in 2017 and is projected to remain at 15.2 percent in 2029. The number of Black public school students increased from 7.6 million in 1995 to a peak of 8.4 million in 2005 but is projected to decrease to 7.7 million by 2029. Between fall 2017 and fall 2029, the percentage of public school students who were Asian/Pacific Islander is projected to continue increasing (from 5.6 to 6.9 percent), as is the percentage who were of Two or more races (from 3.9 to 5.8 percent). American Indian/Alaska Native students account for about 1 percent of public elementary and secondary enrollment in all years.

For more information about this topic, see The Condition of Education indicator Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools.

By Ke Wang and Rachel Dinkes, AIR

The ED Games Expo “Goes Virtual” to Support Distance Learning

This was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences blog, Inside IES Research
Each year, the U.S. Department of Education hosts the ED Games Expo, an in-person event to showcase educational learning games and technologies developed through programs at the US Department of Education and across the government. See here the recap of the 2020 Expo, which occurred the week of January 6, 2020, and was headlined by more than 150 in-person education technology demonstrations by 115 teams at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC. 

 

With the global outbreak of COVID19 and the closure of tens of thousands of schools across the United States and world, a group of government supported developers and researchers are now offering their learning games and technologies at no cost through the end of the school year for use in distance learning settings with internet access. The resources are appropriate for young children to postsecondary students as well as for teachers in education and special education across a wide range of educational topics, such as for early learning, in STEM, reading and language learning, and social studies. Most of the resources were developed iteratively with feedback from teachers and students, and most were evaluated through pilot studies to measure their promise to support improvements in relevant educational outcomes.

Below is the list of 82 learning games and technologies developed with funding across programs at the Department of Education and government that are now available online at no cost to until the end of the school year.

Notes:

  • Each of the entries provides a URL link to a website that provides information on how to access the resources. Some can be accessed directly on the website, some require a free app download from Google Play or the AppStore, and some require a registration so that the developer can provide additional login instructions. tablets, or phones. Many of the websites are optimized for the CHROME browser (not Windows Explorer).
  • Each of the entries differs in terms of the device and operating system that is needed to play or use the learning game or technology, including computers, Chromebooks. A few of the entries make apps freely available yet still require additional hardware, such as a virtual reality headset or a 3D printer.
  • DISCLAIMER: The US Department of Education does not endorse the developers, the learning games, or the technologies listed within.
  • Please email Edward.Metz@ed.gov with questions.

Government programs that supported the learning games and technologies include:

  • Department of Agriculture Small Business Innovation Research (USDA SBIR)
  • Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
  • Department of Education (ED)
    • Institute of Education Research Small Business Innovation Research (ED/IES SBIR)
    • IES National Center for Education Research (NCER)
    • IES National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER)
    • Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE)
    • Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
    • Ready to Learn (RTL)
  • Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health (OAH)
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
  • Library of Congress (LOC)
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)
  • National Institutes for Health Small Business Innovation Research (NIH SBIR)
  • National Science Foundation (NSF)
  • National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (NSF SBIR)
  • The Smithsonian Institution
  • The Wilson Center

Early Childhood

  1. The Cat in the Hat Builds That app is based on the PBS KIDS series, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, and introduces children three to five and parents to science inquiry and engineering (STEM) concepts through hands-on games and activities tailored to their learning progress. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Random House with a 2015  ED/Ready to Learn award.
  2. The Play & Learn Science app is designed for children ages three to five and parents to see the science in their world by modeling real-world locations and experiences. The related hands-on activities and parent notes prompt families to “try it” at home and provide tips for engaging in conversations. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Primal Screen with a 2015  ED/Ready to Learn award.
  3. The Cat in the Hat Invents app introduces children ages three to five and parents to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts, such as simple machines and the engineering design process, as they outfit robots with tools to overcome obstacles in fantastic Seussian worlds. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Random House with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  4. The Photo Stuff with Ruff app is based on PBS KIDS’ short-form animated digital series, “The Ruff Ruffman Show,” and inspires children ages four to eight to discover what the “stuff” in their world is made of. In this camera-based experience, children learn about science by exploring surroundings and taking pictures of different materials to complete silly scenes. Play it together and record and share your observations in fun, creative ways! Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and WGBH with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  5. In the Molly of Denali (Video Demo) app, children aged five to eight use everyday informational texts (i.e., field guides, recipes, diagrams, etc.) to solve problems and fulfill their curiosity in an immersive version of Molly’s Alaska Native village. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and WGBH, through a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.
  6. In Space Scouts children ages five to eight learn badges and mindset rewards as they play five space-themed engineering design and science inquiry games. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Wind Dancer Films through a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn grant.
  7. The Jet’s Bot Builder app is based on the PBS KIDS series, Ready Jet Go!, and allows children ages five to eight to create new parts, explore, learn and have fun building a robot with Jet and friends. Jet’s Bot Builder adapts to your young learner’s progress. Developed by PBS KIDS, CPB, and Wind Dancer Films with a 2015 ED/Ready to Learn award.

Note: The PBS Kids website includes more apps and videos, all available at no cost.

  1. MathBRIX (Video Demo) is a game for pre-K to grade two children to think mathematically and problem-solve by moving virtual replicas of toy-building bricks into place to arrive at solutions. PlayPACT, the home companion, encourages parents to help children build early cognitive skills using a “connected play” approach. Developed with 2016 and 2019 NSF SBIR awards.
  2. Chef Koochooloo (Video Demo) is a game platform that teaches kindergarten through fifth grade students cultural sensitivity, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) concepts (assessed as per national standards), and sustainability through healthy cooking in schools. Developed in part with a 2019 NSF SBIR award.
  3. My Home Literacy Coach  is a resource for parents and caregivers to maintain the reading growth of children in Kindergarten to grade 3. Using evidence-based approaches, 15-minute language art lessons are calibrated daily to match individual children’s progress. Developed by Learning Ovations and researchers at the University of California Irvine with a 2015 ED/IES SBIR award and several IES Research Grants.
  4. Cognitive ToyBox for Schools (Video Demo) is a hybrid observation and game-based assessment platform for teachers, practitioners, and children from birth to five years old. Children play developmentally appropriate touchscreen games for five minutes per week, and teachers have access to timely information on each individual child’s learning trajectory. Developed with awards in 2016 from NSF SBIR and 2019 from ED/IES SBIR.

Special Education

  1. In Go Phonics and Early Reading Skills Builder, (available here)  (Video Demo), students in special education learn to read through phonics instruction aligned to third grade. Developed by the  Attainment Company through a 2011 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. In Access Language Arts (available here)  (Video Demo), special education students access adapted literature and language arts instruction, grade-aligned to middle school. Developed by the  Attainment Company through a 2014 ED/IES SBIR award.
  3.  SOAR  (Strategies for Online Academic Reading) (Video Demo) is a web-based curriculum for middle school students with learning disabilities to promote competency when reading and researching online. The tool supports student efforts to search for, find, evaluate, read, and use appropriate and relevant online information. Developed at the University of Oregon with a 2012 ED/OSEP award.
  4. Project ESCOLAR (Etext Supports for Collaborative and Academic Reading) (Video Demo) supports middle-school students, including those with learning disabilities, in learning science in an engaging environment. Developed at the University of Oregon with a 2013 ED/OSEP award.
  5. The Communication Matrix is tool for teachers, speech-language pathologists, and parents to support students with complex communication needs. The online forum provides a space for information sharing, learning from the field, and offering and receiving support. Developed at the Oregon Health and Sciences University with an ED/OSEP award.
  6. The WRITE Progress Monitoring tool automatically grades writing assessments for middle school students specific to narrative, persuasive, and expository genres of writing.  Developed at the University of Kansas with an ED/OSEP award.
  7. The Project Core implementation model is designed for special education practitioners, parents, and caregivers to provide students with significant cognitive disabilities and complex communication needs access a personal augmentative and alternative communication system and instruction to learn to use it. Developed at the University of North Carolina with support from ED/OSEP.
  8. The Tar Heel Shared Reader implementation model supports teachers, therapists, and parents to provide shared reading instruction to students with significant cognitive disabilities. Developed at the University of North Carolina with an award from ED/OSEP.
  9. AvePM.com is a website for teachers of students who are deaf or hard of hearing, that tracks sign language and oral communication development for students ranging from pre or early reading through sixth grade. Developed at the University of Pennsylvania with an award from ED/OSEP.

Science

  1. In Killer Snails’ Scuba Adventures (Video Demo), grade school students race against the clock as scientists, tagging creatures before their oxygen tanks runs out of air. Earn extra points for tagging venomous creatures whose deadly toxins may unlock the secrets to saving human lives. Developed with a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  2. In Killer Snails’  Rainforest Rumble is a printable card game for children age 5 and up where only the best equipped survive! In this game of survival defend your animals with smart arguments and scientific facts. Developed with a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  3. The Animator App with lessons at (the pink “Flash Points” posts) is an open-ended tool for students of any age to create animations quickly to explore grade school-level concepts of colors and patterns to gas laws and reactions in high school chemistry. Developed by Alchemie with a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  4. Inq-ITS (Video Demo) personalized online labs score themselves and support students in grades five to 10 to learn and apply science practices across physical, life, and earth science. Developed by Apprendis, Rutgers Graduate School of Education, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute with 2007, 2010, 2013, and 2016 NSF research grants, 2009 and 2012 ED/IES research grants, and 2015, 2016, and 2018 ED/IES SBIR awards.
  5. The Mechanisms app (Video demo) brings game-based interactivity to the learning of college-level organic chemistry. All 275 Mechanisms puzzles have hints, goals and a corresponding video to guide student learning. Developed by Alchemie through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  6. The ModelAR app (Video demo) is a digital molecular model set used by students in middle school to college to build and explore chemistry concepts, from isomers and functional groups to large molecules such as Buckyball and proteins. The molecules can also be built on an Augmented Reality tag to manipulate the compound in real space. Developed by Alchemie through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  7. The iNeuron (Video Demo) game introduces neuroscience basics to middle and high school students and challenges learners to complete neural circuits, and can be played individually or in groups. Developed by Andamio Games through a 2011 NIH SBIR award.
  8. CellEnergy Photosynthesis Labs (Video Demo) uses interactive challenges and virtual labs with an experimental playground to engage high school students and deepen understanding of photosynthesis and cell respiration. Developed by Andamio Games through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  9. In Martha Madison (Video Demo) middle school students join meerkat scientist Martha Madison on quests to help her community, while learning physical science and 21st century skills. Jump, fly, slide, and bang through game levels built on a side-scrolling platform that plays like a video game. Developed by Second Avenue Learning with a 2012 NSF SBIR award.
  10. The Tyto Online (Video Demo) game engages middle school students in storylines to explore science phenomena and solve authentic problems. For example, students work with a botanist to solve a food shortage while learning about genetics. Developed by Immersed Games with a 2017 NSF SBIR award and a 2018 IES SBIR award.
  11. In MissionKT players age eight to 13 learn about the story of Stardust: “we are made of Stardust that was once in the body of Albert Einstein and the Last T-Rex.”  The story is about atoms: their creation, size, number, and how they are shared. Up to 4 internet-connected players visit a world of dinosaurs and have fun as they discover how they inherited Stardust from the Last T-Rex. Developed by TheBeamer through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  12. In Building the Universe middle students and up go back in time to the Big Bang to create the first atoms and in the process learn about quarks, protons, neutrons, electrons. This physics game eventually finishes 13.8 billion years later with the Solar System and a habitable planet Earth.  Developed by TheBeamer through a 2017 NSF SBIR award.
  13. Immune Defense (Video Demo) is a real-time strategy game for biology students in grades five to 12 where players use proteins and phagocyte cells to eat bacteria, while learning cellular behavior and the role of protein receptors in an engaging, problem-based format. Developed by Molecular Jig Games with a 2009 grant from NIH SBIR.
  14. Immune Attack (Video Demo) is a third-person shooter game for biology students in grades five to 12. Students fly a Microbot and a nanobot inside a 3D body to activate proteins and phagocyte cells to eat bacteria in an engaging, exciting mission-based format. Developed by Molecular Jig Games with a 2004 research grant from NSF SBIR.
  15. In LightUp Studio (Video Demo) middle and high school students explore the world’s scientific wonders in true-to-life 3-D, and create augmented reality videos to share what they learn with each other. Topics include physics, biology, chemistry, earth science, space science, and AP-specific content. Developed with a 2015 NSF SBIR award.
  16. In Journey through an Exploded Star middle and high school students adventure through the full spectrum of radiant energy of a dying star as it blossoms out in 360° in this never-before-seen 3-D view of a supernova remnant. Built with real scientific data, this interactive allows the user to visualize the electromagnetic spectrum. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution.
  17. In Sama’s Learning Platform (Video Demo), chemistry students engage in advanced visualization of abstract concepts and immersive interaction in Virtual Reality (VR) and also through engaging videos. Developed with a 2019 NSF SBIR award.
  18. In HoloLab Champions (Video Demo), middle students and above perform experiments to learn chemistry in an immersive Virtual Reality (VR) game environment. NOTE: While the app is free to teachers to provide to students in a class, it must be used with a VR headset or system. Developed by Schell Games through a 2016 ED/IES SBIR award.

Math

  1. Teachley’s suite of math game apps include Addimals (Video demo), Subtractimals (Video Demo), and Mt. Multiplis (Video Demo) to support fact fluency and promote math strategy development for students in kindergarten to grade five. Developed with a 2013 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. NumberShire (Video Demo) is a math game focusing on whole number concepts and skills that uses a narrative arc to motivate and provide individualized support to students in kindergarten through grade two, especially those at risk for mathematical difficulties. Developed with 2011, 2012, and 2013 ED/IES SBIR awards; 2012 and 2016 IES awards; and a 2016 OSEP award to the University of Oregon. NOTE: Teachers must contact (ns1its@uoregon.edu) to request a free account for their students.
  3. Fractions Boost (Video Demo) and Boost 2 (Video Demo) are 3-D games for students in grades three to five to develop a conceptual understanding of fractions, while emphasizing social relationships with a track builder that allows students to build levels for their classmates. Developed by Teachley with a 2015 NSF SBIR award.
  4. ProblemScape (Video Link) is an online course for middle school students in introductory algebra packaged in a 3D role-playing adventure game. Developed by RoundEd Learning with a 2018 NSF SBIR Award.
  5. Math Snacks (Video Demo) is a suite of games for middle school students including Agrinautica on expression building, Curse Reverse on variables, Game Over Gopher on coordinate points, Ratio Rumble on ratios, Gate on place value, Monster School Bus on ten-frames and fractions, and Pearl Diver on number sense. Developed by New Mexico State University with 2009 and a 2015 NSF awards.
  6. Woot Math (Video Demo) provides students in grades three to 12 with engaging activities and teaches with actionable data, a formative assessment platform, and interactive content to address gaps in student understanding. Developed by Simbulus with 2015 NSF SBIR and a 2018 ED/IES SBIR awards.
  7. Collaborative FluidMath (access here in CHROME) is designed for distance teaching and learning for middle school, high school and higher education teachers and students to share the same virtual Mathematics workspace. Note: Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR.
  8. webFluidMath (access here in CHROME) is designed for distance learning and remote teaching of K-12 and Higher Education Mathematics and enables teachers to easily make interactive presentations and create and distribute Mathematics activities, assignments, and self-grading assessments via the web. Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR.
  9. FluidMath Practice (access here in CHROME) is a fun application for kindergarten to grade five students to practice automaticity, fluency, and numeracy in a gaming environment while also providing teachers with data about student performance. Enter code EDCOVID19. Developed in part with a 2018 award from ED/IES SBIR, and awards from NSF SBIR, and NIH SBIR.
  10. ASSISTments (video demo) is a free tool for middle school math teachers to assign homework or classwork. Students receive immediate feedback as they complete their assignments, and teachers receive a report with student- and class-level insights to inform instruction. The tool is compatible with Google Classroom and has a vast library of content. Developed by researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute with the support of IES and NIH.
  11. Muzology (Video Demo) is a gamified learning platform that uses music videos (created by hit songwriters!) to get middle and high school students algebra-ready. The platform includes student and teacher dashboards and assignment features for distance learning. Developed by Muzology with a 2018 NSF SBIR award.
  12. Graspable Math (Video Demo) is an algebra notation tool for middle and high school students that turns math symbols into tactile virtual objects that can be explored and manipulated. Developed by researchers at Indiana University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute through a 2011 IES award and a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  13. MidSchoolMath’s EMPIRES (Video Demo) is a multiplayer game aligned for seventh grade math standards, set in Ancient Mesopotamia and built around an epic story-based narrative that allows math to be coherently used within context. Developed with 2013 ED/IES SBIR award.

Engineering & Making

  1. Future Engineers uses an online platform to offer free STEM/STEAM challenges for students in kindergarten to grade 12, such as NASA’s “Name the Mars Rover” competition. Teachers can assign challenges to students, and students can upload their creations to a kid-safe gallery. New challenges in response to the COVID-19 crisis are available now. Developed with a 2018 ED/IES SBIR award.
  2. Fab@School Maker Studio (Video Demo) is a web-based design and fabrication tool for students in pre-Kindergarten to grade eight to design, invent, and build their own geometric constructions, pop-ups, and working machines using low-cost materials like paper and cardstock and a wide range of tools from scissors to inexpensive 2-D cutters, 3-D printers, and laser cutters. Developed by FableVision Studios, Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity, with initial funding in 2010 by ED/IES SBIR.
  3. In CodeSpark Academy’s Story Mode (Video Demo) Kindergarten to grade five students learn the ABCs of computer science with a highly accessible word- free approach. Students program lovable characters called The Foos to create their own interactive stories, learning core computer science concepts in the process. Developed through a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  4. Vidcode (Video Demo) is an online coding platform that teaches students from grade three and up computer science, computational thinking, and JavaScript through multimedia art projects. Developed in part with a 2019 ED/IES SBIR award.
  5. In DESCARTES (Video Demo) students in grades three to five use engineering design, apply math and science concepts, simulate in a sandbox game, and 3-D print their own prototypes (submersibles, boats, gliders, and other machines) using a standards-aligned design platform and curricula. Developed by Parametric Studio with a 2017 IES/SBIR award.
  6. In EDISON (Video Demo) students in grades six to nine solve real engineering problems with gamified engineering design software; make and test designs involving structures, electronics, and RC cars; and simulate and visualize designs in virtual reality and augmented reality. Developed by Parametric Studio with a 2018 NSF/SBIR award.

Reading, Writing, Speaking, Languages

  1. Speak Agent (Video Demo) is a digital teaching and learning platform for students in kindergarten to grade eight for math, reading, and science that delivers tailored activities that integrate content with the language needed to understand it. Developed with 2015 ED/IES SBIR and NSF SBIR awards.
  2. Readorium’s (Video Demo ) reading in science program for students in grades three to eight provides strategies to understand standards-aligned non-fiction science text. Interactive science books are written different levels with video mentor guides and supports to individualize learning. Educators can view progress reports in real-time and download resources. Developed with awards from ED/IES SBIR.
  3. STORYWORLD (Video Demo) teaches students of any age (and English Learners) language and literacy through stories in English, Spanish and Mandarin. The program works on any device—computer, tablet, or smartphone. Stories include quiz-games that reinforce vocabulary, reading and listening skills, as well as capture written and oral responses for teacher review and assessment online. Developed with a  2018  ED/IES SBIR award.
  4. Moby.Read (Video Demo) is an engaging oral reading fluency assessment for students in Kindergarten through grade five. Students use their own voice to read passages aloud, retell key details, and answer short-answer questions for real-time practice and assessment. Developed by AMI through a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award, with initial support from IES.
  5. Walden, a Game (Video Demo) is a first person exploratory about the life of American philosopher Henry David Thoreau during his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond in 1845. The game allows players of all ages to walk in Thoreau’s virtual footsteps, discover his ideas and writings, engage with historical characters such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, and experience the changing seasons of Walden Woods. Developed by Tracy Fullerton and the Game Innovation Lab with awards from NEH and NEA.
  6. AlphaBear2 on GooglePlay and itunes (Video Demo) is an award winning English word-spelling game app for players of all ages, similar to Scrabble or Boggle, in which spellers of any age can learn new words and collect cute bears. Developed by Spry Fox with a 2017 ED/IES SBIR award.

Social Studies

  1. Mission US is a multimedia game that immerse students in grades four and up in U.S. history, in topics such as the Revolutionary War (Video Demo) , the Great Depression (video Demo), and immigration ( Video Demo). Developed by Electric Funstuff with awards in 2013 from ED/IES SBIR award and from NEH.
  2. AzTech Games (Video Demo) is a 3D game series for middle school students to learn basic statistics and measurement, as well as Central American and U.S. Latino history. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2016 USDA SBIR award.
  3. In the Making Camp (Video Demo) game series, students in grades three to five review multiplication and division along with language arts while learning elements of Native American history. The game includes bilingual versions in English/Spanish and English/Lakota. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2016 USDA SBIR award.
  4. Spirit Lake (Video Demo) is a 3D virtual world game for students in grades three to five that teaches multiplication and division and the history of the Dakota. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  5. Fish Lake (Video Demo) is a 3D game for students in grades four to six that teaches fractions and the history of the Ojibwe. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  6. Forgotten Trail (Video Demo) is a game for students in grades five to seven that teaches fractions, decimals, measurement, and multi-step problem solving along with Native American history. Developed by 7 Generation Games with a 2013 USDA SBIR award.
  7. The The Fiscal Ship game helps students age 10 and above with no prior experience with the federal budget learn what will and won’t work. Designed to be whimsical and nonpartisan but grounded in the fiscal facts, the game highlights that small changes to spending and taxes won’t suffice. To win the game, you need to find a combination of policies that match your values and priorities and set the budget on a sustainable course. Developed by The Wilson Center.
  8. Engaging Congress is a digital civics interactive tool for students in middle school and up that uses primary sources to develop content knowledge, build critical thinking skills and expand analysis techniques all in the civics education arena. Modules are played in 30 to 40 minutes for Civics, Government and U.S. History and cover topics from the Founding Era to Present. Developed by Half Full Nelson with support from the Library of Congress.
  9. Race to Ratify (Video Demo) teaches students in middle school and up history and civics through a game about the Federalists and Anti-Federalists between 1787 and 1789. It is designed to help students understand the key debates surrounding the ratification of the Constitution (including an extended republic, the House of Representatives, the Senate, executive power, the judiciary, and a bill of rights). It uses an engaging narrative to allow students to interact with the ideas, perspectives, and arguments that defined the ratification debate, which spanned geographic regions, populations, and socio-economic class. Developed by iCivics with a grant from NEH.
  10. DBQuest (Video Demo) teaches students in middle school and up history and civics through the use of primary source documents and evidence-based learning. It offers a platform, accessible with mobile devices, that reinforces evidence-based reasoning and Document Based Questioning by teaching students to identify and evaluate evidence, contextualize information, and write sound supporting arguments. Developed by iCivics with a grant  from the Library of Congress.

Note: Also check out the iCivics “School Closure SchookKit”

  1. In Digital Cards Against Calamity (Video Demo) players gain insight into difficult trade-offs when community stakeholders make decisions during a community issue, such as decisions coastal communities make during a hurricane. Developed by 1St Playable with an award from NOAA.
  2. Inspired by historical documents and events, the Traders & Raiders game allows players age eight to 12 to learn more about history, geography, and the life of a pirate. The game teaches players about the transatlantic trade, piracy, and how Philipsburg Manor, a National Historic Landmark site in Sleepy Hollow, NY, played a role in this vast and complex system. Developed by Historic Hudson Valley through a 2014 IMLS grant.
  3. People Not Property: Stories of Slavery in the Colonial North is an interactive documentary intended to introduce high school teachers and students to the history of Northern enslavement. The project focuses on what is known or may be interpreted about the lives of individual enslaved people, whose stories are rarely highlighted. Far from comprehensive, People Not Property nonetheless offers an interactive cross-section of human stories emblematic of the lived experience of slavery in colonial America. Developed with funding from NEH.

Social, Emotional, and Healthy Development

  1. Brainology is a multi-media intervention that teaches a growth mindset skills to students in grades PreK to 12 through a wide range of interactive activities illustrating how the brain gets smarter with effort and learning. Developed by Mindset Works in part with support of a 2010 ED/IES SBIR award and a 2015 IES research award.
  2. Healthy U is a sexual health learning platform for high school students aligned to the CDC’s National Health Education Standards and is appropriate for both general education and students with or at risk of disabilities. Topics covered include Puberty, STDs, HIV, Pregnancy and Healthy Relationships. Students practice and build skills through games, animated information videos, dramatic vignettes and connect to their future. Funded by a 2015 HHS/Office of Adolescent Health grant.
  3. PlayForward: Elm City Stories is a role-playing videogame for middle school students focused on sexual health and risk reduction and a range of behaviors including substance use, academic dishonesty, and unsafe driving among others. Developed by the play2PREVENT Lab and Schell Games with the support of NICHD.
Thinking

  1. Smart Suite includes three games for students in grades 4 and up to support the development of executive functions: CrushStations, All You Can ET, and Gwakkamole. Developed by New York University’s CREATE Lab with partial support from a 2016 IES research award.

Careers

  1. Hats & Ladders (Video Demo) is a game-based apps to empower students ages 14  and up to explore in-demand careers that fit their strengths and interests and to engage in real-world skill building to help prepare for success in the world of work. Developed by Hats & Ladders with a 2015 and 2019 ED/IES SBIR awards and a 2017 OCTAE award.

For Parents and Teachers

  1. Gamesandlearning.co is an index platform where parents and teachers can access dozens of learnings resources (e.g., educational games, digital learning, virtual field trips, video lessons, and hands-on activities) for home or school use by children in pre-kindergarten to grade six. The platform provides a filter for users to find specific resources quickly and permits for individualized playlists to be created. Developed in part with an award from NSF SBIR.

Edward Metz is a research scientist and the program manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the US Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. Please contact Edward.Metz@ed.gov with questions or for more information.

Activities for Students and Families Stuck at Home due to COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

This was crossposted from the Institute of Education Sciences blog.

As I write this blog post, my 4-year-old is spraying me with a water sprayer while I am desperately protecting my computer from a direct hit. Earlier, while I was listening in on a meeting, she yelled out “hi!” anytime I took myself off mute. Balancing work and raising kids in this bizarre situation we find ourselves in is an overwhelming experience. When schools started closing, some parents resorted to posting suggested schedules for kids to keep up a routine and deliver academic content during the day. These were wonderful suggestions. As someone whose dissertation focused on how people learn, I should be applauding such posts, but instead, they filled me with a sense of anxiety and guilt. How am I supposed to balance getting my work done while also designing a rigorous curriculum of reading, writing, and math instruction for a kid whose attention span lasts about 10-20 minutes and who needs guidance and adult interaction to learn effectively? Let’s take a step back and recognize that this situation is not normal. We adults are filled with anxiety for the future. We are trying to manage an ever-growing list of things—do we have enough food? Do we need to restock medications? What deadlines do we need to hit at work?

So here is my message to you, parents, who are managing so much and trying desperately to keep your kids happy, healthy, and engaged: recognize that learning experiences exist in even the simplest of interactions between you and your kids. For example—

  • When doing laundry, have your child help! Have them sort the laundry into categories, find the matching socks, name colors. Create patterns with colors or clothing types (for example, red sock, then blue, then red, which comes next?).
  • Find patterns in your environment, in language (for example, nursery rhymes), and when playing with blocks or Legos. Researchers have shown that patterning is strongly related to early math skills.
  • Talk about numbers when baking. I did this with my daughter yesterday morning. We made muffins and had a blast talking about measuring cups, the number of eggs in the recipe, and even turning the dial on the oven to the correct numbers. Older kids might be interested in learning the science behind baking.
  • Take a walk down your street (practicing good social distancing of course!) and look for different things in your environment to count or talk about.
  • Bring out the scissors and paper and learn to make origami along with your kids, both for its benefits for spatial thinking and as a fun, relaxing activity! In this project, researchers developed and pilot tested Think 3d!, an origami and pop-up paper engineering curriculum designed to teach spatial skills to students. The program showed promise in improving spatial thinking skills.
  • If you choose to use screen time, choose apps that promote active, engaged, meaningful, socially interactive learning.
  • If you choose to use television programs, there is evidence showing that high quality educational programs can improve students’ vocabulary knowledge.

Hopefully these examples show that you can turn even the most mundane tasks into fun learning experiences and interactions with your kids. They may not become experts in calculus at the end of all of this, but maybe they will look back fondly on this period of their life as a time when they were able to spend more time with their parents. At the end of the day, having positive experiences with our kids is going to be valuable for us and for them. If you have time to infuse some formal learning into this time, great, but if that feels like an overwhelmingly hard thing to do, be kind to yourself and recognize the value of even the most simple, positive interaction with your kids.

Written by Erin Higgins, PhD, who oversees the National Center for Education Research (NCER)’s Cognition and Student Learning portfolio.