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"Rise and Shine" Power Packet Team Delivers for Arkansas

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  • Stacy Pendergrast
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Arkansas PBS leaders made a promise to the Arkansas Division of Elementary and Secondary Education when they pitched its “Rise and Shine” broadcast program for kids in kindergarten through fifth grade: boost learning, both with the broadcast and with accompanying paper-based booklets delivered to 5,000 or more Arkansas learners in kindergarten through fifth grade every week for six weeks.

We faced the daunting task of forming a mini-textbook production effort, one with pressing publication deadlines. We’d have to flex hard to churn out weekly skills-based packets that would engage kids throughout the long summer break. Yikes! Who here at AR PBS was going to run that publishing operation?

My colleagues, curriculum manager, Elizabeth Rollans, and my fellow educator, Liz Wardell, and I held our collective breath and dared to take on the challenge.

But we knew we needed to build capacity. We needed teachers fresh from the classroom, those who’d already supported kids through pandemic schooling. We needed teachers attuned to the academic skills shorted in last year’s learning disruptions. We needed those who do what good teachers do: lean into the moment—whether charged with crisis, normal routine, or boring humdrum—and give kids what they need.

Enter the “Rise and Shine” skill recovery team: Prentice Dupins from Nemo Vista Middle School, our social studies specialist; Kimberly Harlan from Cabot Middle School North, our math and science expert; Kimberly Parks from Conway High School, our literacy, special education, and English language learner authority; and Jessica Wiley, our special education and literacy consultant from Anne Watson Elementary. And, of course, our intern Andrew McGowan, who found time to help with copyediting, along with his other assignments.

Power Packet Cover

At warp speed, the newly formed team crafted our Power Packet model. Relying on their classroom know-how, the educators designed the working parts of the booklets: Power Pages that lit up with standards-based goals and learning choices for kids accompanied by Power Plans for parents and caregivers to guide kids through stages of learning from real-life connections through skill reviews. In her focus on bringing math and science standards to the page, Harlan stated, “What’s important about our Power Packets is they offer a way for children to extend and practice skills from the previous year, as well as expose them to future content.” The team packed mini-lessons with belonging, significance, and fun—three key ingredients of solid learning experiences.

Rise and Shine Power Packet Educator Team gathered around a conference table

Aware that researchers are examining the widening opportunity gaps worsened by the pandemic’s learning interruptions, this team aspired to leverage equity through the design of printed lessons. An eavesdropper on conversations at our daily roundtables would have caught the team editing for gender-inclusive language or debating whether certain content would reach children with a range of experiences across rural, suburban, and urban Arkansas. To reach out to our highly mobile population, an underserved group whose numbers likely increased during the pandemic, we often used such phrases as “your surroundings” or “your environment” in lieu of “your house” or “your home.”

Each week, Wardell helped oversee the graphic design process – fielding the text to local graphic designer Teighlor Chaney, who gave the lessons visual life – and, then, also coordinated the multi-step process of translating the entire Power Packet for our Spanish-speaking English learners and their caretakers. Under a tight weekly timeline, Wardell reviewed the transcriptions from professional translators and, then, passed the translated copy to one of our television producers, Claret Alcalà Collins. As a native Spanish speaker and writer, Alcalà Collins advised us how to equitably reach English learners.

The quest to reach and engage all learners also tapped our creativity. For example, Dupins added his artistic skills to some broadcast audio and video production tasks. He commented, “From instructional design to songwriting and voice-overs to copy editing, I was able to use multiple talents to bring about a comprehensive and cool product with the ‘Rise and Shine’ program.

Rise and Shine Community Education distribution team showcases Arkansas Food Bank Power Packet Week 1 Delivery

The education team passed final drafts to our community education manager, Karen Walker, who coordinated printing and distribution. Walker rallied state and local partners developed over 15 years of networking and outreach. Aided by community outreach and education specialist Crystal Knights, Walker came up with a weekly plan to distribute the packets into homes and programs throughout the state. She stated, “I was thrilled to see students across Arkansas receive high-quality educational materials, especially those in rural areas who may lack connectivity.” We won’t see Power Packets on newsstands, but we will find that over 50,000 printed copies were delivered in over 59 counties and 133 cities (and still counting).

It has been my privilege to work with this team of professionals on this project grounded in three summer-learning R’s: resources (for kids and families), review (of skills and learning) and recovery (from missed learning opportunities). “Rise and Shine,” Arkansas!

Rise and Shine team poses with Power Packets

TUNE IN:

“Rise and Shine,” weekday mornings starting at 8 a.m. through Aug. 13

Watch live on AR PBS-1, myarpbs.org/watchEngage Arkansas PBS App or the PBS Video App. Watch on-demand at myarkansaspbs.org/riseandshine and on our YouTube channel or the PBS Video App.

 

LEARN MORE:

Learn more about “Rise and Shine” – brought to you in partnership with Arkansas Department of Education – watch videos, download power packets and more at myarkansaspbs.org/riseandshine.   

 

About the author: Stacy Pendergrast taught in public schools for over three decades. In her encore career, she is the education research coordinator at Arkansas PBS.