Around F.C.

Falls Church Sisters Create Virtual Learning Community for Kids Worldwide

Two Falls Church sisters are taking virtual learning to a local and international level.

At the young ages of 14 and 11, Sumay and Aila McPhail created and currently manage “WEquil School,” a kid-led virtual learning community designed to help students with projects and classes. The duo said they were inspired to create WEquil due to the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on education. 

“At first, we were just doing online school,” Sumay said, “but then we started thinking about how we could have a good education given that schools were becoming virtual.” 

After using online resources such as Khan Academy and Crash Course, the sisters said they began to realize how much faster they were learning when it was paired with something they were interested in, such as creating an article/video about said topic and sharing it with others. 

“We were still doing projects about things that we were interested in that were both novel and useful,” Aila said. “That grew into WEquil School.”

The concept behind WEquil is to provide a virtual community where people can “learn by doing” and share what they have learned nationally and internationally. Anyone can download the WEquil app, with Aila saying it provides different “learning pods” that follow the creative learning process — creating projects and presenting them to peers in a certain learning pod. 

Sibling duo Aila (left) and Sumay (right) McPhail created WEquil School, a virtual learning community for children worldwide. (Photo: McPhail Family)

“We wanted to share [WEquil] with other kids, especially those in more developing countries where they don’t have amazing schools or have access to that sort of thing,” Sumay said. 

Initially, the sisters said they only shared WEquil with their friends, but after a devastating house fire that left the McPhail family displaced last September, Sumay said there was more of an effort to scale the virtual community globally. 

“That was when we started getting a lot more global interest,” Sumay said. “We had a lot of kids from India reaching out saying ‘I want to learn.’” 

Since the creation of WEquil, formerly “Makeshift Homeschool,” Sumay and Aila have been interviewed by various media outlets on their ideology behind the virtual learning platform. GoGuardian, Google and YouTube have given the sisters national and international interest in what WEquil promotes. 

People interested in joining WEquil can use it full-time or part-time, as Sumay said there are “no commitments, only opportunities.” Classes are offered on the app, taught by teachers on project-based learning, and certifications are given through links showing one’s projects. 

“At one point, we were doing both public school [virtually] and WEquil School projects,” Aila said. “That was really draining because all of that screen time is not good for you, so that’s when we decided to leave [public school].”

Some challenges the sisters have faced with creating and running WEquil have been “finding kids that are really passionate about learning,” while also trying to manage an influx of participants on learning pods. Aila said the creation of the app six months ago has helped them create a place where people can “learn and feel comfortable” without being overwhelmed. 

Recently, the app just launched their classes function, which allows teachers to find and provide the “best resources” online when showing their students the “best project idea.” The creation of micro-schools is also a new concept for WEquil, with Sumay saying that people can create their own schooling environment.  

“[WEquil] definitely supplements in a lot more of the kind of soft skills you need to develop in order to communicate, public speak, collaborate and learn how to use a lot of these online technologies,” Sumay said. “A lot of what we want to focus on is helping kids to learn how to adapt…in this changing world.” 

“We’re preparing kids for the real world because the real world is changing,” Aila said. “We’re preparing kids for the real world by having them do real world things that they’re actually interested in so they’ll actually remember it and retain the knowledge.”