The COVID-19 pandemic forced employees and students across the globe to quickly adapt to virtual work and virtual school.
School closures have had a massive impact on students and families in the community where we work in Durham, N.C. Digital inequity among students in the Durham Public Schools (DPC) already is a challenge, and school closures made it easier for educators to see who has access to technology for learning at home and who does not. How can students learn without access to a computer? Reliable internet? A quiet place to focus? School closures have only widened the digital equity gap within our community, and for some students, this could negatively affect their learning and have a lifelong impact.
In the wake of pandemic lockdowns and closures, the DPS Foundation launched “a community-wide effort to ensure every single DPS student experiences high quality digital and remote instruction.” In an effort to provide a safe and supportive environment for students in need, the DPS Foundation established HOPE Learning Centers. One of those learning centers is Kate’s Korner, located just down the street from CloudFactory’s Durham office.
Meet Kate’s Korner
Kate’s Korner is a drop-in childcare center that supports 80 students of people who are essential workers, foster parents, homeless, or cannot provide a virtual learning environment for their children. Care is provided at no cost to the family. The curriculum at Kate’s Korner is specifically designed to provide a place where children can attend virtual school and have opportunities to learn about science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM). Kate’s Corner relies on donors and other support to meet the need for affordable, high-quality child care for families in Durham.
After learning about the HOPE Learning Centers and their needs in the pandemic, a small group of CloudFactory employees decided to get involved. Motivated by our CloudFactory principle, “we work to love and serve,” we partnered with Kate’s Korner to support STEAM learning experiences for the students they serve. What started out with a small group of us quickly grew to include CloudFactory’s entire U.S. organization.
We created and executed four STEAM-themed, hands-on workshops for fourth and fifth graders at Kate’s Korner. CloudFactory’s CEO and founder Mark Sears designed and led each session, supported by our employees.
In each workshop, the students had the opportunity to:
- Release their inner genius
- Explore how technology can be used to care for others, advance positive environmental changes, and increase health and wellness
- Create paper circuits, coded images, and emojis using a pocket-sized computer called a Micro:bit
- Build a mini robot out of a toothbrush
- Receive a certificate for completing the STEAM-themed program
Yes, the students are truly as capable and intelligent as they sound. You can be on the lookout for the next Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, or Thomas Edison- they may very well have been in the room with us. Kids, if you’re reading this, don’t forget about us when you make it big!
The CloudFactory principle we build relationships led us to cultivate friendships with the students along the way. After participating in and seeing the impact of these programs, CloudFactory employees donated a total of $5,000, which CloudFactory matched for a total contribution of $10,000, to the DPS Foundation to support their efforts to bridge the gap and accelerate digital equity for students in our community.
Throughout this experience, the students, the Kate’s Korner team, and the work of the Durham Public School Foundation inspired and amazed us. We are thankful for the opportunity to partner with them as they continue to accelerate digital equity among school-age children.