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Opinion | How Michigan universities are collaborating to continue K-12 learning

In Michigan and throughout the country, COVID-19 and the school closings that have resulted to help contain the virus have left parents and educators scrambling to help children learn from home. Our university students who were student teaching now are unable to be in the classroom, and our research and outreach to school districts around the state in many cases have been curtailed.

But here at the Michigan State University College of Education, the University of Michigan School of Education and the Wayne State University College of Education, we still know how to help children succeed. Our educators and researchers are redoubling our efforts to assist school districts, parents and children deal with the challenges posed to education during a global pandemic.

That work is especially strong because our three universities are joined together in Michigan’s University Research Corridor (URC). For years, we’ve collaborated to research best practices in education and how to get what we’ve learned into the hands of teachers and school districts throughout Michigan.

That knowledge remains important as school districts and students pivot to distance learning. But there are also new challenges to address as students and parents deal with managing stress and anxiety during this unprecedented period. We’re working to provide resources that can be tapped at home, and reaching out to parents and our alumni to share strategies for enhancing their children’s education at home. 

One example is Wayne State University’s #HealthyKidsQuarantined website, which provides activities, resources and fun challenges through weekly calendars for elementary and middle school children. MSU’s College of Education is working with WKAR TV to create short videos on topics like keeping kids physically active and promoting literacy, as well as linking to resources from PBS.  U-M School of Education’s webpage provides a guide for teachers and parents in supporting themselves and their students while trying to teach and learn during the COVID-19 crisis. The site contains links to family and teaching resources for public health advice, anxiety and self-care advice, instructional guidance and an opportunity to “Ask an Expert” for help with teaching and learning online. 

This is an extraordinary time, but our past work has shown that every challenge presents opportunities to build on what we know works and to join together to find new solutions for changing circumstances. We’re continuing to evaluate what’s working and what’s not as school districts find new ways to provide education, meals and support to students no longer physically in school. We’re researching new approaches, tapping new technologies and tools and getting feedback from educators, students and parents, and sharing what we learn with educators statewide.

With so much unknown about how long social distancing will last and when and how K-12 schools will reopen, it’s more important than ever that the best URC minds are focused on finding new solutions in these uncertain times. As longtime educators, we recognize the resilient nature of children. We’re determined to work with parents and educators and our own university students to make sure Michigan’s children get the education they need to have the future each one deserves.

Robert Floden is dean of the Michigan State University College of Education, Elizabeth Birr Moje is dean of the University of Michigan School of Education and Anita G. Welch is dean of the Wayne State University College of Education.

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