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Children-Led "Pop-Up Schools": Building a Global Network of Education First Responders

The University of Newcastle, Telstra, a sister schools network, civic leaders and NGOs empower children-led "Pop-Up Schools."

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What problem does your innovation solve?

There are at least three phases to initial educational recovery following disasters in order to support school-age children going through displacement, trauma, loss and uncertainty: 1) post-disaster immediate first aid 2) first-month attempt to establish "normal" routines with children 3) re-booting curriculum and adjusted formal educational processes within disaster zones. This project will develop specific interventions for all three phases of educational rescue, recovery and restoration.

Explain your innovation.

Phase 1-prior to disaster a) Form a Sister Schools network in Fiji, Bangladesh, Indonesia & Australia, linking teachers who will have their students design hands-on culturally appropriate curriculum, online tools & materials for young children & place materials in "Education First Aid Kits" to be on standby with first responders b) Train older children in teaching strategies and age-appropriate trauma-based wellbeing c) Build a locally contextualised "30 Lessons in 30 Days" repository so that the materials can be used as part of lessons in the dark, in a tent, in a camp, etc. d) Build a network of providers & distributors of education first-aid-kits through existing NGOs & Civil Defence teams e) Build cloud-based "Moving Forward" curriculum resources for longer-term use f) Collaborate with Telstra Australia for communication & access to telecom & cloud resources Phase 2-post disaster a) Provide Pop-Up School Materials/Education First Aid Kits b) Older kids teach younger kids using "30 Lessons in 30 Days" & connect to disaster related topics Phase 3-some services restored a) Employ pop-up cellular towers to aid in communication, cloud access & learning connections b) Activate virtual Sister Schools Network & connect classrooms across the partnership for support & learning c) Implement the cloud-based curriculum "Moving Forward" aligned with local education authorities syllabus d) Sister Schools ship additional materials & participate in live networking sessions.

Who benefits?

Getting older kids planning for and then teaching younger kids will enable a locally-centred relief effort for both sets of learners. Establishing norms for children post-disaster is vital. The prior-developed lessons will emphasise coping with disaster, empathy and resiliency inside of literacy and numeracy scaffolds. Across the four countries, disaster relief education first aid kits will be on standby for regional crises and staged with other relief materials. Schools can pop up anywhere deemed by authorities as safe. The Sister Schools Network provides a catalyst for support and enhancements to teaching. The entire community benefits from an increased sense of normalcy being realised soon after a major event.

How is your innovation unique?

This plan is "kids helping kids" through a crisis. It is a chance to build capacity with young people and for educators to advance-plan with them for disaster relief. With the local-centric approach, the materials will be appropriate and vetted. In addition to sustenance and medical treatment, getting learning environments on track is vital to restoring hope for children and their families. The Sister Schools Network will allow us to evolve relationships across borders before, during and after disaster, building an international community of young people dedicated to service and the betterment of mankind. The heart of the curriculum innovation is locally-designed education first-aid kits and local curriculum suited for the culture and expectations of each partner nation/region.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

We look forward to working with our lead industry partner, Telstra Australia, local education authorities and other industry partners to build the cloud-based tools to have those resources in place in anticipation of Phase 2 and Phase 3. Telstra Australia will work with us to develop plans for the pop-up cellular towers and drone-based delivery systems to stage Phase 2 of the project. Working with educational agencies, we will build curriculum around each sector's curricular expectations and allow young people to help shape the direction this initiative takes.

Tell us more about you.

The University of Newcastle School of Education is one of Australia's and the world's most progressive, equity-driven higher education institutions. Our goals, through leading research and teaching, are to impact the betterment of mankind. We play a vital role in the reinvention of the regions we serve and are uniquely situated as part of the global conversation about transforming learning and teaching. We have strong relationships with each of the partner countries and Indonesia in particular.

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Natural disaster
  • Armed conflict
  • Prolonged displacement
  • Extreme drought
  • Other (please specify in next question)

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

This project will be beneficial for most unfortunate disasters that might occur.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

The project will be implemented as a pilot in Fiji, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Australia. We believe it can be replicated across the world and take on a specific girls in education focus where that issue is the most vital need and ongoing crisis. The School of Education at the University of Newcastle will lead the global network of providers.

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

The University of Newcastle and our regional schools network have already established partnerships in Fiji, Bangladesh and Indonesia. Working in partnership with the University of Newcastle's Centre for Interdisciplinary Built Environment Research and in-country partnerships already established in these countries, we will build on-the-ground school and community teams prepared to provide educational relief for local children affected by disaster.

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

As a global institution, the University is uniquely positioned to provide coordination and talent to develop this partnership. Building on already established networks in Fiji, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Australia as well as NGO and industry partnerships, we can leverage our experience and expertise to develop this model of educational first aid.

Innovation Maturity

  • Existing Prototype or Pilot: I have tested a part of my solution with users and am iterating.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

The School of Education is based at the University of Newcastle, Australia.


The overall University website is The Centre for Interdisciplinary Built Environment Research (CIBER) was formed in 2003 to address important social, cultural and technical challenges involving architecture, building and design. Its website is:

How has your Idea changed based on feedback?

During the process of refining our ideas, we consulted with education experts, industry partners and current school children. We did mock-ups of our ideas and we held sessions with school children to help us hone the ideas.

Who will implement this Idea?

The School of Education, University of Newcastle, will lead the project for our global network. We have agreements from contacts in each country to build the network of schools and disaster relief teams to embed the education first aid kits into relief supplies as the situation on the ground allows. We have Telstra committed to conceive with government officials the logistics of pop-up cellular towers and we will work with each country's current education ministers and principals' networks to build the short-term and longer-term curriculum interventions within each country for each country.

What challenges do your end-users face? (1) What is the biggest challenge that your end-users face on a day-to-day, individual level? (2) What is the biggest systems-level challenge that affects your end-users?

The biggest challenge is in the timing of the first aid kits being delivered in the rescue and recovery process and in staging the materials prior to the disaster within the already established relief networks.

How is your organization considering sustainable growth in order to continue making an impact over time?

We have assurances from our schools network and government agencies that sustainability is very doable for this project. Corporate sponsors who already are part of food, clothing, medicine and housing relief are able and willing to incorporate these approaches to the current systems in each country for our pilot.

Tell us about your vision for this project: (1) share one sentence about the impact that you would like to see from this project in five years and (2) what is the biggest question/hurdle you need to address to get there?

By 2025 we envision a Pop-Up Schools approach enabled anywhere in the world. The kids helping kids approach is viable and visible as a fundamental component of a global effort and creating hope and some sense of "normalcy" after disaster strikes. The local centric nature of it means that each community can have school materials on standby for disaster relief any where in the world. And the cloud based lessons approach are easily built into every school system in the world over the decade ahead.

How do you currently measure (or plan to measure) outcomes for this project?

At the three stages of this project we will assess the outcomes of our project using two questions: 1) In what ways did the pop-up schools approach allow schools led by older children to establish a sense of learning, hope and "nurturing normalcy?" 2) To what degree were the 30 Lessons in 30 Days, cloud-based curriculum and sister schools network useful in formal and informal learning from the perspectives of student teachers, younger students, parents, community and educational authorities?

What is the timeline for your project Idea? What are the key steps for implementation in the next 1-3 years?

Year One--Build the four-country network and implement pilot in disaster-sticken regions Year Two--Assess the pilot and refine ideas for large-scale roll-out Year Three--Increase the number of participating countries toward a full scale international program

My organization's operational budget for 2016 was:

  • Above $1,000,000 USD

How many of your team’s paid, full-time staff are currently based in the location where the beneficiaries of your proposed Idea live?

  • Under 5 paid, full-time staff

Is your organization registered in the country that you intend to implement your Idea in?

  • We are registered in all countries where we plan to implement.

How long have you and your colleagues been working on this Idea together?

  • Less than 6 months

What do you need the most support with for your innovation?

  • Program/Service Design


Join the conversation:

Photo of Rebecca Petras

Your initiative is a very interesting one and is crucial for providing quality education for numbers of children especially minority groups who are not receiving education in their native languages.

I am the Deputy Director in Translators without Borders (TWB); a U.S. non-profit organization that aims to close the language gaps that hinder critical humanitarian efforts worldwide. We recognize that the effectiveness of any aid program depends on delivering information in the language of the affected population. By maintaining a global network of professional translators, we help non-profit organizations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services while fostering a climate of understanding, respect and dignity in times of great need. We invite you to learn more about our work through this link. Translators without Borders is a non-profit organization supported entirely through our volunteers, grant funders and generous donors and sponsors.

TWB’s current translation capabilities exceed more than 190 language pairs with over 20000 translators. So far we have translated over 45 million words as part of humanitarian crisis response, and health and education services. We have also provided basic translator training to over 250 trainees in our translator training centre.

Since 2010, Translators without Borders (TWB) has played a crucial role within the humanitarian and development sectors leading on localization and translation of complex and lifesaving information into more than 190 languages, especially for populations in crisis. TWB has contributed to building the capacity of local translators in different parts of the world including in Kenya, Guinea and Greece.

Translators without Borders is expanding its program to support Mother Tongue Education programs. We want to work in collaboration with education providers to overcome the language barriers to mother-tongue education. TWB has the expertise and to:

Translate and adapte educational materials in local language, including training translators in local languages
Support Ministries and education providers to develop materials to support teachers in teaching in mother-tongue languages

We believe that our expertise around language and localization when coupled with your expertise and efforts in Education will expand the outreach to marginalized populations unable to benefit from quality education opportunities. It would be our pleasure to connect with you and learn more from you on your ongoing projects and discuss possible ways of cooperation together.

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