So, she blew out her planned PLC on trauma-sensitive schooling in favor of an all-hands-on-deck effort to help that second grade classroom craft lessons plans, including differentiation, that quickly expanded to include one K-8 school and one high school within CPS under the moniker Loyola CARES (Candidates taking Action in Response to an Emergency Situation). Education majors across all four years broke into small groups assigned to a specific teacher, and then worked with those teachers getting their input on how best to help, along with specific demographic information on the students in class, and then set to work crafting e-learning lesson plans for students performing at, below, and above grade level.
One group was paired with a second grade CPS class and found out from the teacher the kids could really use help with math; specifically, money, time, measurement, and geometry. So, they brainstormed and came up with the idea of creating a series of virtual field trips to an aquarium, an apple orchard, a volcano, and the zoo. The group tasked with fleshing out the apple orchard virtual field trip started with a video to give the kids an overview of how apples are grown and harvested. They then segued into a lesson that combined basic math skills with money concepts, asking the students to figure out things like three different ways to pay for a 25-cent apple with coins. They were asked to draw a picture of an apple orchard featuring at least eight different apples and show it to their family—not only reinforcing basic counting skills but also bringing in art, providing a much-needed balance to academics and helping address the social/emotional needs that are so critical to vibrant mental health through this time of isolation.
Another group was tasked with using the same virtual apple orchard trip as a springboard to a language arts lesson. That group used NearPod, an online instructional platform, to create a lesson around nouns and adjectives, explaining the difference and challenging students to come up with at least four adjectives for apples using each of the five senses—how an apple looks, feels, tastes, smells, and sounds. Similar to the math group, the language arts group then added a more visual component to the lesson, asking students to create a poem about apples written in the shape of an apple to bring in some right-brain functioning to a more left-brained activity.
Teachers from the two schools can continue to submit requests ranging from tracking down instructional resources to curriculum design/lesson planning, and Ferguson will assign candidates to fulfill the requests. At the same time, Ferguson will be pairing up with assistant professor Charlie Tocci to guide master's candidates through their summer session that will have them creating a website that includes instructional resources and activities related to social emotional learning that will be shared with a partner school that specifically requested that support.
CARES is a huge win for everyone involved—the CPS teachers are getting a much-needed assist, the Loyola students are getting invaluable real-world experience, and the CPS students are ultimately reaping the benefit of such a strong, brilliant partnership. Loyola students have been praising this innovative program: