The Global Search for Education: Finding Your Stride
Classroom Champions, the non-profit organization that connects students with world-class athlete mentors, is launching a new platform and curriculum to make social and emotional learning (SEL) more accessible for schools and classrooms across the country.
Co-Founder and CEO Steve Mesler says the bottom line for the initiative is to create a place that takes the wisdom of athletes who are “walking the talk of perseverance, grit, and leadership,” and provide it to all teachers and schools in the United States. The platform will allow Classroom Champions to put Olympic and Paralympic athlete mentors in front of kids at a time in their lives when they’re most impressionable.
Classroom Champions had planned a major launch event at SXSWedu in Austin this month, but COVID-19 disrupted the plan. Instead, The Global Search for Education is pleased to welcome Steve Mesler to discuss how you can #findyourstride with Classroom Champions’ brand new curriculum.
Steve, Classroom Champions has been doing the same good work with classrooms in the US for many years. Why launch a new platform now?
The reason for launching a new platform was two-fold. The first was we really wanted to expand the support we give to teachers in our mentorship program. That is, make it simpler for classrooms and schools to connect with their athlete mentor and give them much deeper tools to bring the SEL skills from their athlete mentors to life. We wanted to create something that would be ten steps ahead of the tools teachers are used to using. I think we’ve really been able to do that. The new Mentorship+ platform is going to integrate Zoom for video chats, use Flipgrid for student conversations with their athletes, have a private community that’s been the marque awesome-ness for schools and athletes to exchange messages, and a lot more.
The second reason is that schools told us they wanted a scaled-down version of the lessons Classroom Champions’ athletes are teaching — thus, the new SEL Foundations curriculum. This new curriculum and platform will let schools have access to the messaging, video content, curriculum and lesson plans of Classroom Champions athletes, just without the unique mentorship with one specific athlete.
The new Classroom Champions platform lets students and teachers access and learn from the world’s best, in a way that will work for schools that want to either integrate SEL into their core subjects or make it a way of life for their school culture.
Talk us through the new curriculum/lesson plans you’ve created for teachers. First, how does it work?
The brand new curriculum includes 8 thematic units that focus on real-life, evidence-based, social and emotional learning topics for schools to leverage. Each unit — from Goal Setting to Perseverance to Leadership — is anchored in an incredible athlete’s video lesson and then surrounded by weekly lesson plans, student handouts, family engagement materials, formative and authentic assessments, principal implementation support, and various teacher professional development tools and opportunities.
Is it free?
Schools will be able to access the curriculum in various ways. Classroom Champions Freemium will give teachers the full Goal Setting unit, anchored by two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and mentor Christian Taylor. Freemium will also give teachers access to “Mindful Minute” videos from Olympic and Paralympic athlete mentors to implement any time during the day.
From there, teachers, schools, and districts will be able to upgrade to the full curriculum called SEL Foundations — meant for schools looking to up their SEL game and provide students real-life examples of critical social and emotional topics.
Mentorship+ is meant for schools looking to enhance or shift culture, and for those schools in turnaround mode. Over the past decade, we’ve seen the power of connecting teachers and students to inspiring athlete mentors. With our new curriculum and platform, we’ll be able to maximize that impact.
Costs will be dramatically lower than Classroom Champions expenses as we scale the platform. We’ve aimed to make it less costly for the SEL Foundations curriculum than entities like Second Step or Leader In Me — with SEL Foundations costing as low as $2,499 for an entire school or at $149 for one classroom for the year. As a non-profit, all expenses go back into enhancing the experience for schools and providing scholarships to those most in-need.
Why do you think teachers will want to use it?
First and foremost, teachers will see incredible engagement in their students when using Classroom Champions’ new curriculum. There’s no other place where you can learn social and emotional lessons taught by the world’s best.
But teachers are really going to want to use Classroom Champions’ new platform because it’s going to be intuitive to them. It’s a totally different, easy to use approach to teaching SEL, which has become saturated with products and programs. You don’t need to teach people how to use Netflix anymore — and this is going to feel like that for teachers.
The unwritten rule in education has been that teacher tools are clunky, tough to navigate, and frustrating. The goal is for teachers to get on this and just “get it”… and I believe they will.
What were the biggest challenges putting the prototype together?
We’ve been working with teachers for two years now on how we make Classroom Champions and SEL more accessible. The competing priorities — different geographies and needs of different populations, teachers wanting different features, and creating something usable by all but at the same time customizable at the teacher or school level — were incredibly challenging. That’s a mouthful, I know, but almost everything was challenging to do. In the end it came down to the team really, truly believing in what we were building.
Teachers are very busy people – in what ways will you support them and ensure they connect with, and implement your content?
This one has been a staple feature of Classroom Champions from the start. I was a teacher, my co-founder and sister, Dr. Leigh Parise, was a teacher and now a PhD education researcher, our parents were teachers, and everything you see on the platform has been informed by teachers.
Classroom Champions created this new curriculum and platform to help you as a teacher find your stride when teaching social and emotional learning. There’s in-depth guidance for teachers on implementation that will be followed by more video content for teachers, webinar support, and in-person PD to make sure teachers feel supported.
How and where do teachers go to get started?
Teachers can head to classroomchampions.org to learn more and try the new Classroom Champions.
Steve, lots of luck with this and thank you for speaking with us.
Thank you to our 800 plus global contributors, teachers, entrepreneurs, researchers, business leaders, students and thought leaders from every domain for sharing your perspectives on the future of learning with The Global Search for Education each month.
C. M. Rubin (Cathy) is the Founder of CMRubinWorld, an online publishing company focused on the future of global learning and the co-founder of Planet Classroom. She is the author of three best-selling books and two widely read online series. Rubin received 3 Upton Sinclair Awards for “The Global Search for Education”. The series which advocates for all learners was launched in 2010 and brings together distinguished thought leaders from around the world to explore the key education issues faced by nations.
Follow C. M. Rubin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@cmrubinworld