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Partners in Invention Education: How the Cleveland Metropolitan School District Transformed Summer Learning and Met State Standards

For school districts large and small, summer learning and enrichment programs represent important opportunities to help students both catch up academically and prepare for a successful school year. The increased need for remote learning throughout 2020 and 2021, paired with unequal access to at-home resources, meant that for many schools, their 2021 summer programming was especially important to help prevent the children in their care from falling behind.

Challenge: Find a program that redefines summer learning and aligns with state standards

According to Greg Adkins, principal of the Hannah STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) School in Cleveland, Ohio, one major difficulty in identifying a suitable educational partner for effective summer programming is finding a program that aligns with academic state standards.

“You have partners coming from all different angles with a program that they say is the best fit or the best fit for urban education,” Adkins said in an interview with the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF). “I think oftentimes a lot of partners will package themselves to saying they’re going to do X, Y and Z, but a lot of them are missing the academic piece.”

As part of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), the second-largest school district in Ohio, Adkins and other district administrators were looking for a solution for their schools that would reimagine summer programming and provide a customized solution to fit their needs.

“Cleveland wanted to redefine what summer school looked like,” Adkins said.


Solution: Partner with NIHF for an engaging, turnkey, standards-aligned experience

Central to CMSD’s decision to partner with NIHF was the knowledge that each of the nonprofit’s education programs aligns with state and national learning standards while providing easy implementation.

For a large district that serves as many students as Cleveland Metropolitan does, the ability to offer a turnkey program that can be taught by educators with diverse backgrounds was crucial to meeting its staffing needs.

“We knew that we were going to have educators with various backgrounds — some that may have STEM experience [and] some that may not have STEM experience,” Adkins said. “The projects offered through NIHF provide teachers with everything they would need to deliver authentic STEM experiences that require no work on their end.”

Natalie Tetzlaff, an early childhood education teacher who implemented NIHF’s programming during summer 2021 for CMSD, confirmed how seamless it is to teach.

“We don’t have to go looking for things. We know what to use [and] we can show the kids the video and they know exactly where it’s going to go,” Tetzlaff said in an interview with NIHF. “It makes it so much easier — that way we can focus on the learning and collaboration.”

Stephanie Bluffestone, a second-grade teacher at CMSD’s Memorial Elementary School, shared Tetzlaff’s positive experience teaching NIHF’s curricula, and appreciated how it allows participants to practice collaborating and working together.

“It’s a great learning experience, getting [students] together and learning how to collaborate [and] learning how to communicate with each other,” she said.


Result: Authentic, hands-on challenges inspire joy and build important 21st-century skills

One of the main goals of CMSD’s post-pandemic recovery plan has been to provide students with educational activities that enable joyful and adventurous learning. For Adkins, NIHF’s curriculum, developed using lessons and stories from some of the world’s most accomplished inventors, achieves just that.

Additionally, because all NIHF programming instills the Innovation Mindset, skills and traits that unlock creative potential, educators can feel confident children are building essential 21st-century skills that will help them succeed into adulthood.

De’Anthony, a student who attended NIHF’s 2021 summer program, enjoyed his experience and appreciated how he was able to solve real-world problems.

“STEM camp is fun because we do [different] types of marble runs, and we try to fix the world and help it out,” De’Anthony said in an interview with NIHF.

Tiffany, another NIHF summer program attendee, had fun building and collaborating with others.

“I shared my ideas by making things and building and [using] cooperation,” Tiffany said in an interview with NIHF.” “So when we collaborate, we also work together as a team [and] it makes me feel happy.”

For school districts looking to use state or federal funding as a part of their COVID-19 recovery strategies, NIHF’s programming qualifies for both. In the case of CMSD, the district was able to find funding with the help of Christopher McIntyre, regional partnerships executive at NIHF.

“The great thing about working with NIHF was Chris helped us do most of the grant proposal [and] everything that we needed was easily accessible on the website,” Adkins said. “[That] allowed us the opportunity to essentially just take what we needed and plug it in from standards alignment to project descriptions and how we were going to engage kids.”


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