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Pods, Parenting and Regenerative Education

Group families into pods for in-person learning connected by diverse online networks; design for regenerative livelihoods and governance.

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I am a.....

  • Teacher
  • Parent/Caregiver
  • Organization
  • An organization that includes an

Tell us about your idea

We set our idea with the understanding of the following big-picture context:

Our collective health, including our mental/spiritual health is critical. Children are deeply impacted by the growing unemployment facing their parents, with its accompanying levels of food insecurity and current as well as potential future increase in hunger and malnutrition, with its severe impact on education.

In the context of both pandemics and climate change, we need societal systems that move us towards ongoing internal, societal regeneration.

These shifts must include: educational, economic (including livelihoods in creating and restoring food, forest, and water systems), governance (including conflict resolution), communications (including storytelling, art, media, ritual, and dance) and health systems.

We anticipate a future wherein fragile global systems, which have become even more brittle or altogether broken during the quarantine, will continue to be pushed towards the breaking point. We do not know how larger networks are going to function, but we can hardly depend upon such fragile systems for our livelihoods. We thus anticipate the need for increased self-sufficiency, creativity, innovation and the capacity for peaceful problem solving with a focus on the good of the whole community actively addressing existing inequalities at local and regional levels.

Education cannot be reimagined separate from these other systems. We recognize that the brokenness and frustration so many teachers and students experience prior to the global pandemic arise from its colonial and industrial past. In this context, and with a focus on learning, we suggest:

o Clustering families into pods where their children can learn and experiment in small, safe groups led by at least one adult educator

o These pods can, as it feels safe, be clustered into small groups, attending to multiple forms of diversity

o Both of which are complimented by online networked learning, supported by a laptop for every enrolled child and WI-FI subsidies for low-income households

o Supported by shifting the expectations of the work-week and active re-tooling for a green economy

o Supported by a living Universal Basic Income and universal health care

o All of which is paid for by a tax on the ultra-rich for the next 15 years as governments are currently slashing social programs to balance the budget.

As we engage, as a society, in creating livelihoods that honor and enable local self reliance via new forms of resilient food systems, spiritual education, craft, trade, technological engagement and music-making livelihoods and water systems that can actually survive climate chaos while addressing current levels of inequality, separation, anxiety and loneliness.

From its inception, public education provides childcare for working parents. The pandemic has shown how critical that role is as parents struggle with both working and childcare; this is especially true for single parents who make up nearly 25% of U.S. parents. Even the best online education programming assumes that there is consistent adult supervision in the household. We cannot create the online component without also addressing the need for childcare. 

In the past few weeks, we have watched families from Boston to Conneticut to California begin to self-organize and “pod” in groups of perhaps no more than 5 families. In time, as it feels safe, these pods can be connected to other pods, forming groups. These pods can and need to be networked online within their city and globally to enable the critical engagement with multiple forms of differences and appropriate pedagogies.

Each pod needs various forms of adult guidance and supervision. These can be provided by various forms of formally trained educators – meaning a significant increase in adults engaged in and compensated for education.

Pods are inherently co-learning spaces. As they evolve in every neighborhood where children gather to learn together, there could also become spaces for parents to learn together and share responsibility, overcome their inhibitions, address their deepest apprehensions, loneliness, anxieties and sense of inadequacies as we collectively create new initiatives. 

Co-learning spaces thus become new healing spaces.  Healing includes healing historical trauma; we hope to see the content of future educational curricular become based on actively anti-oppressive, de-colonial pedagogies for all students. These can in turn become units to produce, process and distribute food, share building, clothing and caring, engage in creative thinking, living together and celebrating various stages of life and living by a community. In their capacities and shared values, they will hold the key to sustain the planet and humanity together.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

Crowded class rooms designed to train students to become thoughtless, uncreative workers for a system they don't control, all the while telling them that they can be anything. Colonial, outdated education that ignores its own history and is structured in a way that teaches young people that after the age of 9 or 10 (or earlier) their artistic, musical and spiritual sensibilities are worthless Education that does not actually educate for the real needs of a climate changed society: how to grow sustainable agriculture, make your own medicine, engage in conflict resolution, repair ecosystems, weave your own cloth, and in other ways be self-sufficient. Lack of opportunities for learning basic business skills, entrepeneurship, marketing, and design skills.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

The idea came out of our own internal discussions about the need to re-imagine learning. All of our members are deeply concerned about and entrenched in education. One of our members, Amy Kietzmann, wrote a beautiful small essay on the relationship between parenting, childcare, labor, and the need for pods which came out of, in part, witnessing other parents in our collective attempt to manage parenting and education while sheltering in place.  Then we discovered the IDEO contest and were delighted to see that the questions and opportunities integrated so well with our own conversations. 

What region are you located in?

  • North America

Where are you located?

We are a national group located across the United States, primarily in urban and suburban settings.


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