With the pandemic still raging, the excitement of starting a new school year has been replaced with anxiety and uncertainty for students, parents and educators. Some schools have remained closed with students participating in remote learning while some others are attempting a hybrid approach with a combination of remote learning and in-person classes. By Rochelle Miller
With the pandemic still raging, the excitement of starting a new school year has been replaced with anxiety and uncertainty for students, parents and educators. Some schools have remained closed with students participating in remote learning while some others are attempting a hybrid approach with a combination of remote learning and in-person classes.
Stepping up to meet the needs of students and their families is Challenge Island, an educational enrichment program founded by former public school teacher Sharon Estroff. Challenge Island not only offers a rich program designed to enhance STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) skills, but also has helped bridge gaps in education caused by school closures occurring since the global health crisis began last spring.
“Challenge Island is really rising to the challenge and making the most of this moment,” Estroff says. “Parents and kids need us now more than ever.”
The brand, which has been growing rapidly throughout the country through franchising, has traditionally used school facilities to host the program. School closures, however, led to the creation of the innovative “Home Island,” a virtual online program that has received rave reviews.
After last school year ended, Estroff began a virtual camp that was recognized as a Top 3 Virtual Camp in the USA by the American Camp Association. “We have had thousands of kids come through our virtual camp,” she says.
While the online programs have been hugely successful, Estroff knew there was more to be done. “We asked, ‘Where can we fit into the needs of this community? What about all these kids who can’t stay home?’”
To help working parents who needed in-person program options for their children, Estroff launched outdoor field trips for Challenge Island students during the summer. Such expanded programs also provided additional revenue streams for her franchise owners.
Estroff also created additional school-year initiatives including a “Social Bubble” program with teachers making house calls to teach “learning pods” comprised of small groups of students organized by parents willing to host the groups at their homes. As an incentive, franchise owners can offer a recruiting parent’s child the opportunity to attend the course free of charge after a minimum number of students enroll.
Franchise owners also have the option of securing their own space at some convenient location in the community to host groups in pop-up learning centers called “Imagination Labs.”
While there is no easy solution to the challenges facing parents and students in this unprecedented school year, Estroff has found that offering a variety of options to school-aged children has provided parents with relief.
This is also good news for Challenge Island franchise owners, who have experienced an upswing in their sales. “This is the perfect teacher job,” Estroff says. “It was created by teachers for teachers.” While a teaching background is not required to become a Challenge Island franchise owner, the brand offers passionate educators with an alternate career path in these tumultuous times.
“We’re structured to survive. A lot of our competitors may not survive,” Estroff says. “I think we may be in an even better position than before.”
– Rochelle Miller