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Partners in STEM

Partners in Invention Education: How Escondido Union School District Addressed Achievement and Engagement Gaps

While the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is hopefully behind us, for many schools across the country, the negative academic and social impacts of its disruptions are ongoing.

Last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said as much in a major address delivered at the Department of Education.

“It’s time to reimagine holistic supports for every student every day and reimagine schools and school systems designed to meet the needs of our learners,” Cardona said. “To improve and elevate our education system, we must unapologetically address opportunity and achievement gaps that are pervasive in our country. This means acknowledging that many of the students who have been most underserved during the pandemic are the same ones who have had to deal with barriers to a high-quality education since well before COVID-19.”


Providing Customized Solutions

The themes within Cardona’s call to action were largely representative of the challenges faced by students in California’s Escondido Union School District (EUSD). In response, the district partnered with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® to implement a customized program designed to reengage students’ love for learning and exploration.

As EUSD evaluated how to best support its students — many of whom come from migrant and/or underserved populations — district leaders felt confident in working with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. They understood they could rely on our more than 30 years of experience in developing hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education programs and ability to deliver customized curricula and complete materials, shipped directly from our 75,000-square-foot warehouse.

“Some of the challenges that Escondido, as well as all school districts, are experiencing are the return from the pandemic and distance learning, and knowing that there are not only learning gaps, but there’s also engagement gaps,” said Rick Oser, director of extended learning intervention and enrichment at EUSD. “Escondido was really purposeful in selecting the National Inventors Hall of Fame’s curriculum so that we can address the achievement gap, but also the engagement gap.”

To impact the greatest number of students, EUSD worked with us to implement a customized program to benefit both its middle school and elementary school students. It was this level of customization, paired with the amount of resources and support, that Shannon Fralish, coordinator of expanded learning at EUSD, valued when working with the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“The National Inventors Hall of Fame is able to customize our programs for us because we have a wide variety of programs,” Fralish said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “It helps teachers who teach our gifted and talented students, for our special education students, for middle school students, all the way down to our incoming first graders.”

Claudia Ramirez, a fifth-grade teacher at EUSD, had the opportunity to implement our programming this past year, and appreciated the resources and support that made her job easier.

“The teacher support provided through the National Inventors Hall of Fame really has helped with just planning — it’s nice that I get the curriculum and the script,” she said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame. “With the limited time that I have to plan, what I have found really helpful is looking at the teacher instructional videos.”

Bringing Joy to Teaching and Learning

Our engaging curriculum not only reduced preparation time for educators, but it also encouraged both teachers and students to have fun while learning.

Reflecting on the National Inventors Hall of Fame programs implemented at EUSD, Oser was happy to share that the programs’ hands-on, open-ended experiences sparked joy among students as well as teachers.

“Every single teacher has said how much they're enjoying teaching the curriculum … and when teachers are having fun, that's going to translate to students having fun,” Oser said. “But it's not just fun for fun in itself. It's actually meaningful, purposeful, and the result is our students are learning.”

When asked if she would encourage other schools to partner with the National Inventors Hall of Fame in implementing a customized program to meet the needs of their students, Fralish was emphatic in her support.

“I would highly recommend the National Inventors Hall of Fame curriculum for any expanded learning program,” she said. “It can be used very easily in afterschool programs, in summer programs, intersession programs. It can fit into any timeline that you need, two weeks, four weeks or longer. And the company is great at providing all of the tools that you need to customize your programs.”


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