FAQ icon

Need Answers?

Directory Icon

Email, Phone, and Addresses

Graduation cap icon

Explore Degrees

Helping Young Learners Get Where They Want to Go in the World

SOE graduate student Garret Potter wins funding for an innovative virtual learning platform that will take them there

Garet Potter
Garret Potter

On his first day as a kindergarten teacher, Garret Potter asked his students what they wanted to learn most. One student’s hand shot up. “All the countries, and continents, and oceans!” Since 12 of his 23 students spoke two languages at home, it made sense that understanding the world they lived in was their highest priority, recalls Potter. And yet, despite their boundless curiosity, even the state’s most progressive social studies curriculum would not take them where they wanted to go. 

For Potter, an educator, father, and now a dual degree master’s student in the School of Education and the School of Information (UMSI), that wasn’t good enough. “What if children had a resource they wanted to turn to before learning to read, where they could explore what they were curious about?” This became the driving question that led Potter to develop Everstory, an encyclopedia exploration environment for early learners.

Conceived of in 2021, Everstory is an audio/visual Wikipedia for four-year-olds who cannot yet read text but are fluent in spoken language and image transfer. With Everstory, children can begin with a person, place, or thing in which they are personally interested and move from that point—virtually—around the globe, the universe, and throughout time, building their own connected web of knowledge.

In the spring of 2022, Potter applied for the James A. Kelly Learning Lever Prize, a competition designed to challenge U-M students to invent digital tools with the potential to significantly improve student learning. In her welcome remarks at the start of the competition, SOE Dean Elizabeth Moje addressed the presenters: “Each of your designs is timely, inventive, and informed, and demonstrates your commitment to improving student learning outcomes for all individuals.” Potter’s presentation of Everstory garnered a development award of $4,000. 

Subsequently, Potter applied for—and was awarded—a UMSI Field Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant of $5,000 to support his startup venture. The funding will help cover the many expenses associated with launching new technology, including software development, mobile application development, content creation, user testing, and legal consultation.  

“The University of Michigan offers a wealth of resources through programs and coaching for students who are seeking to launch a startup; however, seed funding can often be a challenge or highly competitive,” says Kelly Kowatch, director of UMSI’s Engaged Learning Office. “The Field Grant helps UMSI students and their teammates move their ideas forward in ways that are challenging in other environments.” 

In May, Potter was selected as a finalist for the Michigan Virtual Ed Tech Contest, and advanced to a pitch presentation held on June 22. The competition is the result of a partnership between Michigan State’s Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Spartan Innovations (a subsidiary of MSU Foundation), and Michigan Virtual, to bring educators’ ideas to life on ways to solve common classroom problems. Ultimately, Potter took second place, securing $6,000 in business startup grant funding, as well as logo design support, legal consultation, and the opportunity to attend an innovation bootcamp. The camp was designed to help participants further explore and develop a business model around their ideas, while also introducing them to the resources available to entrepreneurs and innovators in Michigan, as well as opportunities to bring entrepreneurial and innovative lessons into classrooms. 

“Michigan schools have an opportunity to benefit from anyone who has ever thought, ‘I wish there was an app for that’ in an educational setting,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, President and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “This contest is an opportunity for real Michigan educators to directly impact classrooms by turning their dreams into reality, with the goal of improving teaching and learning for years to come.”

Over the coming year, Potter intends to hire a full stack developer, seek the support of undergraduate UX capstones course students, beta test with users in English and Arabic, and continue to pitch and present Everstory to potential partners and funders. Everstory aims to launch publicly in 2024. In the meantime, Potter has invited Educational Studies graduate colleagues Xuechen “Sally” Liu, Harmeet Kaur Saini, and Makoto Watanabe to write content for Everstory in English, Mandarin, Hindi, and Punjabi. His hope is that more colleagues will join in collaboration to ensure Everstory is developed by a multilingual, multicultural team of educators and designers for the benefit of early learners across the world.

MORE FROM Fall 2022

Five dynamic additions to the SOE community
Faculty research offers surprising insights and meaningful solutions for education policy during and after the COVID-19 pandemic
Funding will support student progress toward degree
High school students lend their voices to the effort to create equitable economic growth in Detroit
A new center highlights the role admissions play in equitable access to college
Vilma Mesa and her team of researchers investigate the power of asking interactive questions
An international day of giving focuses Marsal School donors on small funds with big impact
Champions for Education
The CSHPE alumna reflects on the importance of giving back to help advance justice and equity in higher education