The Natural Pod team has recently been gathering together online with the intention of reflecting on this past year. (We are an almost fully remote team so that’s our normal regardless of the current state of the world). We’ve also been looking ahead to the next one through the lens of staying in a place of creativity.
Over this last year we’ve experienced, as many of you have, that our sense of time expanded and contracted in very strange ways. Sometimes it’s felt like nothing significant has happened and time has stood still, other times things have been so hectic it’s been overwhelming. But through our group get-togethers, we’ve bounced ideas and memories around, and we’ve been reminded of how inspiring and courageous our community has been and how many great things have taken place. Students, parents and educators have all shown great resilience during this trying time and we’d like to say a huge thank you to each of you and our whole community for their uplifting energy.
Here are some of our most memorable highlights during this past year; we hope they will offer you inspiration and encouragement as you move forward into the new coming year:
A big project we started during 2021 that really highlights this resilience was Natural Pod™ LIVE. We developed this live streaming talk show with the intention of offering inspiration and opportunities to learn from education leaders who are doing great work and making change happen. It’s due to the generosity of our guests’ time and willingness to share their personal stories alongside the challenges and opportunities they’ve encountered that has offered this community new insights into the future of education and what’s possible. A big thank you to all our guests on Natural Pod LIVE that shared their experiences and thoughts with us all.
Another highlight for us over this last year was creating and sharing our Indigenous Learners Ideabook. It had been a while in the making; at the time of release, we had completed just over 40 Indigenous learning environments over a span of several years. The goal of the Indigenous Learners Ideabook was to share some fantastic Indigenous learning spaces, the stories behind them and why as a company we deeply support and advocate for the cultural and environmental values of Indigenous communities.
Also during this past year, you may have been part of, or noticed, increased advocacy for indoor/outdoor learning opportunities. Natural Pod has certainly been part of that movement, and we were delighted to be part of the indoor/outdoor learning project at Medea Creek middle school in Oak Park Unified School District and to have had that work recognized in Learning by Design magazine.
We would be remiss if we didn’t talk about mental health during this time. We’re so pleased and relieved that conversations around mental health are becoming increasingly open. It’s only through sharing experiences and open dialogue that solutions can hope to be found. Bridgitte, Natural Pod’s founder and CEO, wrote a great piece in September when students had returned to learning, titled: ‘Let’s Not Lose Sight Of Wellness In The Name Of Safety’.
We also had a lot of positive feedback about the book ‘Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind’ which we’d like to share again and highly recommend reading.
Another large project we completed this last year and are quite proud of was the Project Hub Collection. This collection was created to provide a space for ‘doing’. It’s composed of furniture that can come together, or move apart, in locations where students and educators connect and collaborate, engage in design thinking, and prototype their ideas. The mobility of the individual furniture pieces adapt to the needs of the moment and provide ample storage for materials and loose parts.
The Project Hub Collection pivots around our new Junction Table. This central multi-functional table allows students and educators to collaborate for project-based learning in STEM labs, art studios, or any project-oriented space where material storage is needed at the workspace. You can learn more about the Project Hub Collection in the Ideabook.
As a team, particularly as we navigated the ups and downs of this last year, one of the most impactful areas for us has been deepening our Culture of Care + Connection. That culture has always been within our company, but Bridgitte, our founder and CEO is really leading the way and taking it to the next level. She’s encouraged us to live this culture in everything we do and everything we are. Well-being is being prioritized and becoming the center of all our actions. The aim is to care for both ourselves and the people in our lives; whether loved ones, colleagues, or strangers. This level of care only leads to greater connection – which is more important now than ever – for the well-being of ourselves, each other and the health of the planet. You can read more about this from Bridgitte here. We really hope this idea of embracing a Culture of Care + Connection is inspiring to our community and offers some ideas of how to prioritize well-being for everyone as we enter this new year.
From the whole Natural Pod team, we wish you a happy, safe and healthy new year.