There is one undeniable fact, educators are some of the best problem solvers on this Earth. Over the past few weeks, you have each been faced with challenging scenarios that none of us could have dreamed about a month or two ago. All of us here at MMSA want to say THANK YOU for your commitment to the youth you serve as you dive into uncharted territories supporting learning in these tumultuous times.
MMSA is here for you – in whatever capacity. Please reach out. One of MMSA’s greatest strengths is bringing people together. We strive to find disparate efforts advancing STEM education and access across the nation and bring those ideas together to generate a united front that none of our organizations could accomplish on their own. Our country and the world is grappling with how we respond to the emerging pandemic of coronavirus/COVID-19 and as STEM educators our response must be data-informed, creative, and deliberate. MMSA is thinking intently about how we maintain and perhaps even increase the level of collaboration and professional learning opportunities in this new paradigm of social distancing.
As of Monday, March 16th, MMSA has transitioned to 100% work from home. All of our staff members are available to support you throughout the coming weeks and months, as always. Our grant programming is continuing on – but we will be re-evaluating how to leverage the grants we have been awarded to be as responsive as possible to the needs of the educators we partner with. All of our programming will be transitioning to virtual interactive professional learning rooted in research-based best practices of how educators learn best in virtual settings. Again, please let us know how we can support you and your colleagues in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Thankfully, MMSA has worked hard to design a hybrid virtual and in-person workplace and programmatic culture over the last few years. Since we serve rural educators in Maine and across the country, reaching more than 35 states, we have been forced to be creative in designing innovative models to support and meet the needs of rural educators through interactive virtual learning – even before COVID-19 emerged. We have learned how to build community online, how to incorporate hands on activities, and how to use facilitation strategies that build on the functions of virtual learning environments. Please read this “Afterschool Matters” article written by MMSA staff to learn more about what we have discovered about offering high quality, impactful virtual professional learning.
Any project that you are currently participating in with MMSA will be reaching out to you to check up on how you are doing, to identify what we can all do to move forward the work you have been engaged in, and to discuss any additional supports you may need at this time. All MMSA staff are just as available to you (perhaps more so) as we have ever been. Don’t be a stranger and let us know how we can help support you, your students, and your school.
As our country and the world grapples with how we respond to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, all of us at MMSA, as STEM educators, must maintain a data-informed, creative, and equitable approach to our work and our messaging, as an organization and as individuals. Maintaining a data-informed and scientifically literate frame to this response will guide rational decision-making and ensure our society does not give in to fear, stigma, discrimination, and the many forms of xenophobia that ooze to the surface in times like this.
The NAACP has released a report about equity implications of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of those considerations relate to MMSA’s work and culture, 1) Certain populations face differential exposure to adverse impacts and extensive corresponding implications; 2) Racism and stigmatization have increased, particularly towards Asian and Asian American populations; 3) Low income communities under quarantine and unable to work are especially impacted; 4) Denial and misinformation can exacerbate the crisis (NAACP, 2020).
MMSA has always worked hard to promote an open, welcoming, and supportive environment for everyone inclusive of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and all other identities. But in times like these we feel it is important to expand on that intention. As a colleague of mine stated, “It is our duty, as STEM education researchers and as teacher educators, to use our knowledge and expertise to prevent injustice, discrimination, and any form of violation of human rights.” It is with this in mind that MMSA and all its representatives pledge to:
- Call out and quickly stop any discriminatory behaviors, messaging, or language.
- Use data informed language to combat fear and avoid spreading misinformation while avoiding stigmatizing language that targets or excludes groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc.
- Ensure that everyone is treated equally while being mindful of differential impacts faced by various communities.
- Acknowledge and address latent biases.
- Actively search for methods to stop the widening of the equity gaps present and growing in our society including economic inequality, access to technology, rural/urban, class, race, religion, and geographical divides.
- Be inclusive and remember that everyone faces different circumstances. Continue to treat everyone with respect, both in their presence and in their absence. Do not resort or revert to unkind discussions about people.
In conclusion, we acknowledge that although discriminatory statements and actions in relation to COVID-19 are happening throughout the nation, MMSA will not tolerate this behavior. We will do everything within our power to educate and empower citizens with evidence, data, and scientifically grounded information to inform future actions and decisions.
Please reach out to MMSA as everyone strives to build community, stay connected, and ensure that we ALL keep on learning!
NAACP, Ten Equity Implications of the Coronavirus COVID-19 Outbreak in the US, accessed April 3, 2020 https://naacp.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Ten-Equity-Considerations-of-the-Coronavirus-COVID-19-Outbreak-in-the-United-States_Version-2.pdf