This year looks a little different than what most people expected going into it. That is no exception for Building Futures.
The Kranzberg Arts Foundation resident organization hosts hands-on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) workshops for local students, however, since the spread of COVID-19, Building Futures is having to build its own future a little differently than originally blueprinted.
“It’s been a new challenge to identify ways to transform methods we’ve created in-person to a virtual platform,” said Grace Pettit, digital marketing specialist for the organization.
Like many other resident organizations, for Building Futures pivoting to digital means maintaining a connection with the community as social distancing becomes the new norm.
“We’re focused on presenting ideas to students that haven’t been solved before …
we are living what we teach right now,” Pettit said referring to the pandemic. “There are many barriers and landmines … but it’s refreshing to live what our organization’s mission is about — preparing young minds and individuals to solve these unknowns.”
Exploring the digital environment
In March, the organization launched its “Always Building Online Workshops,” encouraging students to engage with their peers over video to explore new concepts.
“In that respect, peer-to-peer learning is kind of happening,” Pettit said.
Virtual projects include designing a flying machine and building a tower out of straws. Students can also learn how to use scrap wood to create art and a handful of other activities.
However, transitioning hands-on learning to a contactless model has presented its own set of challenges.
“The learning environment is so unique to Building Futures. You come to a workshop and you’re introduced to an idea. You’re introduced to all the tools, methods, and mechanisms that could get you to that end goal … We’re still working through how to capture all of those steps [on a virtual platform],” Pettit said. “There are a lot of nuanced moments within learning, especially with what we do and how we do it, and virtual really hinders that.”
Connecting with students in new ways
Despite these obstacles, Pettit said they’ve received photos and videos of students’ projects. Messages from parents thanking them for the online workshops have also been sliding into their DMs.
“It shows that we as Building Futures understand that we need to be taking responsibility for producing and connecting and engaging with [students], even if it doesn’t look the same,” Pettit said.
Building Futures continues to adapt and build a future for its students however it can.
“We’re really looking forward to continuing to work and come up with new ways to meet these challenges and support our students, educators, and community through whatever means possible,” Pettit said.
Image courtesy of Building Futures.