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COSI and the State of Ohio Launch the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative to Help Bridge the Education Gap Statewide

Thursday, 18 March 2021

COSI and museum, cultural, and other statewide partners will deliver 50,000 free Learning Lunchbox STEAM kits to accelerate learning in classrooms, communities, and homes.

Columbus, OH –The Center of Science and Industry (COSI), the top-ranked science center in the country by USA Today’s 10Best, the State of Ohio, statewide educational institutions, museums, cultural organizations, and local officials will kick off the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 in Newark, Ohio.

The Ohio Distance Learning Initiative is an innovative program led by COSI and a collaboration of meal providers, libraries, museums, and cultural institutions across the state to deliver 50,000 free, hands-on science kits called Learning Lunchboxes. These boxes, historically created to be distributed alongside meal programs, provide five activities aligned with Ohio’s learning standards and promote science, technology, engineering, arts, math (STEAM), culture, history, and more. The Learning Lunchboxes are tailored to specific themes, such as Space, created in partnership with NASA. Beginning March 30, COSI will also distribute a limited number of free kits to each of Ohio’s 611 school districts to help enhance in-class learning.
COSI will also distribute a limited number of STEAM kits on a first-come-first-served basis once a month in 2021 throughout Ohio’s 88 counties to boost learning at home and in the community. At some locations, meals will also be dispersed through local foodbank partners so together, we can help feed hungry lives and feed hungry minds. COSI will host socially distanced distribution events alongside a consortium of partners, which will help distribute kits to the public and underserved youth through car pick up. Distribution sites will be transformed into community Wi-Fi hotspots, enabling the public to download learning through the free COSI mobile app, which has offline capability. The first community distribution event will take place in Newark, Ohio on Tuesday, March 30 from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM at The Ohio State University Newark campus. Meals will also be distributed by the Food Pantry Network of Licking County. The second community distribution will take place in April in Cincinnati. The full list of sites is available here: https://cosi.org/ohio-distance-learning.

Other local museums and cultural organizations from across Ohio will be featured inside the STEAM kits to help share their learning resources to the public. These partners will volunteer at community distribution locations by passing out kits to the public.

Local mayors, county commissioners, and elected officials will volunteer during each community kit distribution through socially distanced means.

“COSI’s Learning Lunchboxes will be a valuable resource to promote STEM educational opportunities as our students return to their classrooms this spring,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “It’s great to see COSI and all of their partners put new and innovative learning experiences within reach for so many kids across the state.”

“STEM education is important because STEM careers are the fastest-growing occupations in the economy and pay substantially more than non-STEM careers,” said Lt. Governor Jon Husted. “The earlier we can get Ohio’s kids engaged in STEM activities the better chance we have of helping them prepare for a fulfilling, prosperous future success.”

“This pandemic has amplified an educational disparity in our communities. Government, for-profit and non-profit institutions alike need to work better together to help ameliorate educational outcomes for the classrooms and communities of our great state,” said Dr. Frederic Bertley, President and CEO, COSI. “These COSI Learning Lunchboxes and the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative demonstrate the power of partnerships when we ignore the box to bring people together around a common goal of serving our youth. COSI appreciates the support from the state of Ohio and our partners, for without whom; this outreach would not be possible.”

Organizations participating in the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative include:
  • State of Ohio
  • Ohio Museum Association
  • Ohio Arts Council
  • Ohio Humanities
  • Buckeye Association of School Administrators
  • Ohio School Board Association
  • Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators
  • Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators
  • Ohio Mayors Alliance
  • Mayors’ Partnership for Progress
  • Ohio County Commissioners Association
  • Ohio Association of Foodbanks
  • Ohio News Media Association
  • More than 150 museums and cultural organizations
“We are excited and honored to partner with COSI on the Learning Lunchbox program that will provide students across the state with fun and engaging science activities that align with Ohio’s learning standards. COSI has brought together an incredible team of collaborators to support the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative and we are very encouraged by the work they are doing to serve Ohio’s students,” said Ohio’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria.

“Ohio museums play a critical role in providing learning to the community and this bold initiative is bringing museums together to showcase how they are ready to serve Ohio families and youth,” said Johnna McEntee, Executive Director, Ohio Museums Association.

“The arts community is excited and ready to serve alongside COSI and the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative through its Learning Lunchboxes, which will provide families with opportunities to learn about arts in their community to help our youth learn,” said Donna Collins, Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council.

“Humanities organizations throughout Ohio thank COSI and the state for creating this unprecedented partnership to provide much-needed educational tools and resources to families and teachers during this pandemic. Ohio Humanities is excited to be part of it,” said Pat Williamsen, Ohio Humanities Executive Director.

“We’re all in this together, and together these Learning Lunchboxes will help provide our superintendents, educators, students, and families with fun hands-on experiences and accelerate learning,” said Dr. David Axner, Executive Director, Buckeye Association of School Administrators.

“The Ohio School Boards Association and its member boards of education across Ohio are excited to partner with COSI and other educational partners to enhance learning. We must bridge this COVID Canyon education gap and we will do it together,” said Richard Lewis, CEO, Ohio School Boards Association.

“Southeast Ohio is working diligently to support its students and families during this unprecedented time and we look forward to partnering with COSI to bring hands-on fun distance learning and digital resources to our youth and families in rural Appalachian Ohio,” said Amista Lipot, Executive Director of the Mayors’ Partnership for Progress.

“We are excited to join the Ohio Distance Learning Initiative, which is being led by COSI along with museums and cultural organizations across Ohio. Our county commissioners, county executives, and county council members are on the front lines of supporting our families during this pandemic. This program is an example of our community coming together to support Ohio’s youth and families,” said Cheryl Subler, Executive Director of the CCAO.

“Education is critically important to our local communities and mayors across our state. We are excited to partner with COSI to help facilitate distance learning and provide much needed digital literacy throughout our state,” said Keary McCarthy, Executive Director of the Ohio Mayors Alliance.

“We are thrilled to partner with COSI and the state of Ohio to help provide learning tools like the COSI Learning Lunchbox to our educators, administrators, and students. This unparalleled model demonstrates the power of collective action to address a major COVID challenge that we must address,” said Julie Davis, EdD, Executive Director, Ohio Association of Elementary School Administrators.

“Education equity is important now more than ever, and we must work together to make quality educational resources available to our students, teachers, educators, and school leaders. This program will play an important part in achieving that goal. We thank COSI and the state for its innovative approach and for our partnership,” said Dr. Timothy Freeman, Executive Director, Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators.

“Feeding hungry lives and feeding hungry minds. On behalf of Ohio’s foodbanks, we are thrilled to partner with COSI and the state to help align these critical needs to serve our youth and our communities,” said Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director, Ohio Foodbank Association.

“Ohio news media are excited to partner with COSI and the state of Ohio to help showcase the incredible learning resources around our state. The Learning Lunchbox program demonstrates how communities can come together to help address a critical issue: educating our youth.” said Monica Nieporte - President and Executive Director - Ohio News Media Association.

Earlier this fall, COSI conducted a statewide roadshow serving more than 1,000 families across Ohio counties, including stops in Athens, Canton, Lima, and Parma, Steubenville, Dayton, and more.

For more information on visiting a distribution site to receive a Learning Lunchbox (while supplies last) visit https://cosi.org/ohio-distance-learning. Organizations interested in sharing their learning resources through this program can sign up here.

COSI is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the doors have been closed, COSI has been engaging with the community through COSI Connects, COSI’s digital doorway to online learning; the COSI Learning Lunchbox, kits filled with hands-on science activities; and the new “COSI on Wheels: Curbside Edition.” For more information on COSI Connects, visit cosi.org/connects.