COVID-19 forced us all to make big changes, some of which are going to continue beyond thepandemic. This six-part blog series asked six different Family Math organizations how they continued to serve families during the pandemic, and what they’ll keep moving forward.
What is Family Math? Family Math is an emerging movement to promote math activities within the context of family relationships and everyday life, from the grocery store to the playground, during breakfast, bath time or bedtime. The practices help young children strengthen their math skills and feel enthusiastic and confident. It also empowers parents, organizations and early educators with knowledge, tools, and resources that help them feel excited about introducing and exploring mathematical concepts.
This is blog post two of six, and comes from Dr. Nereyda M. Hurtado at Grail Family Services in San Jose, California. Grail Family Services’ mission is to partner with families, schools and communities to promote children’s success and well-being. Learn more: http://www.gfsfamilyservices.org/.
How did your organization support Family Math before COVID-19?
Before COVID-19, Grail Family Services (GFS) supported Family Math through instruction and activities in our state-funded preschools and our “Yes We Can Read! Plus” (YWCR+) program, which is designed to give K-1st grade students a boost in literacy and math skills through mentoring and family engagement. Our preschool program includes My First Math Kit, designed to engage parents and children in fun, math-related activities at home. My First Math Kit includes six early math activities (rotated weekly) based on five key math content areas that align with the California Preschool Learning Foundations: number sense, algebra and functions, measurement, geometry, and mathematical reasoning. The Kit contains instructions and all necessary materials for parents and children to perform the activities together. An important component of the Kit is “My Math Buddy,” a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt with the GFS logo. “My Math Buddy” was created to give children the opportunity to practice their math activities and concepts with their Math Buddy, thereby strengthening their newly acquired knowledge.
We recognized that many of the families in our preschool program are extremely busy, working two or three jobs, without the ability to spend extended periods of time practicing these early math concepts with their children. We supported Family Math in our YWCR+ program by demonstrating and practicing math-related activities to do at home during the Parent Engagement Workshop and Family Literacy Night components of the program.
How did you adjust and adapt for COVID-19?
In response the COVID-19 pandemic, Grail Family Services shifted to a remote program delivery model so that we could continue to serve the community while keeping our staff and the families we serve safe and healthy. We developed and implemented strict health and safety protocols for when coming to the office was necessary and to prepare for our eventual re-opening. Our staff made daily calls to our families to check in on them and assess any specific or emergency needs. In partnership with other local organizations, we distributed food, diapers, formula, baby wipes and personal protective equipment, which initially were the most critical needs for our families. We also distributed more than $172,000 in financial and rent assistance to families, many of whom were struggling financially even before the pandemic. And we leveraged our Building Blocks of Parenting™ (BBP) App to share important COVID-19 information and provide access to additional resources.
In addition to addressing our families’ basic needs, it was essential that we continued to support their children’s educational needs. Our preschool staff created and distributed learning videos on topics ranging from proper hand washing to activities children could do at home to develop their literacy, early math, and creativity skills. We also provided families with free access to myOn Reader, a digital library with age-appropriate books and learning activities. MyOn Reader was also an integral part of the remote mentoring component of our Yes We Can…Read! Plus literacy and math program for kindergarten and 1st grade students.
What were some of your organization’s bright spots during COVID-19?
COVID-19 illuminated the power of partnerships, especially when facing a crisis. GFS is a founding member of the Si Se Puede Collective, which brings together five agencies – Amigos de Guadalupe, GFS, School of Arts & Culture, SOMOS Mayfair and Veggielution – to promote greater collective impact in the community through joint advocacy and coordinated service delivery and accessibility. As an established partnership, we were able to quickly mobilize the resources (human, financial and logistical) to ensure that our community families had access to critical information and resources to keep them safe and healthy. In partnership with SSPC and the Santa Clara County Department of Health, GFS implemented a pilot public health campaign focused on reducing the number of COVID-19 cases in our community, which was disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. GFS developed a nine-hour virtual workshop to train Community Health Workers (Warriors/Guerreras) and SSPC staff about the coronavirus, preventive measures, the importance of testing, accessing resources, contact tracing and how to engage the community in supporting mutual health and well-being. We trained 24 Guerreras and 5 SSPC staff. The goal of the program was to reach out and engage at least 2,400 community members to create community-wide awareness and prevention. As the vaccine became available, the program was extended to include encouraging community members to get the vaccine.
What changes will you keep as you move forward? What are you looking forward to post-COVID?
We will continue to hone our ability to deliver our services remotely so that we are prepared to pivot in the event it becomes necessary again. We will continue to leverage our BBP App as a way to deliver information and learning activities (including Family Math) to our families. And we will continue to strengthen our partnerships, especially with the Si Se Puede Collective. We know there is still much work to be done as our community begins the process of recovery. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated the financial, educational, and social inequities that families in our community have long endured. We will work with our partners to advocate for policies and programs that contribute to our community’s recovery and that promote equity. We look forward to welcoming a full roster (48 children) at each of our two state-funded preschools this fall and engaging them and their families on the path to a lifetime of learning. We look forward to gathering as a staff—in person—and rekindling the energy, ideas and inspiration that can only come when you are all in the same room. And we look forward to returning our primary focus to creating innovative solutions that promote family engagement and support children’s learning and well-being.