While schools were closed due to COVID-19, Arkansas PBS, with the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) met a desperate need, creating a collaborative, multi-platform solution to keep students learning from home with Arkansas AMI (Alternative Methods of Instruction.)
Together, we created a whole new level of engagement including adding five Arkansas Teachers of the Year to host each grade giving children a kind face and warm voice to start ‘school’ each day. We also incorporated activities with statewide partners to inject Arkansas-centered lessons about the places and things kids recognized to help reduce stress.
With an all-hands-on-deck directive, we pivoted to create a strategy and model in only two weeks. becoming the centerpiece for school at home, premiering daily content on air (8 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and on all digital platforms for eight weeks. Arkansas PBS also utilized WORLD Channel daily for older grades.
Because families get their content in many different ways, we made sure that this same content was also streamed live online, available on-demand and archived at myarkansaspbs.org/AMI, on the Engage AR PBS app, on the PBS app, through on-demand services and on the AR PBS Channel for YouTube TV subscribers. We reached out to cable and satellite providers to carry Arkansas PBS to reach rural areas that did not have broadband access. Because of our efforts, three new providers have begun carrying AR PBS in broadband deserts.
Our way of working in person and in studio was no longer possible and had to be reimagined with our teacher hosts and partners. We spent the next two weeks identifying equipment needed, finding teachers hosts and training them to be virtual educators, writing scripts and lesson plans, creating awareness campaigns and more. ADE sent digital AMI packets to each school district. Spanish language materials were also included. “Blueberry’s Clubhouse,” created in collaboration with the Arkansas Arts Center and Theater, featured Blueberry, a fun-loving puppet guide to the The Natural State. A digital series accompanied the broadcast program and is continuing as a stand-alone series throughout the summer. A Help Desk, FAQs, website, daily newsletter, our new app, blog series, and social campaign kept families and educators informed daily.