Moving into September, our summer programs are officially completed. Unlike any other summer in Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough’s history, our team had to completely pivot mid school year due to the changing ways of the world brought by the pandemic. Exploring the new issues existing amongst our children and teens at the beginning of the pandemic, our team has grown our COVID-19 response summer and ‘after-school’ program to fit the needs of our children and community. We have provided both virtual and in person programs, while consistently following PPE protocols to keep kids safe, engaged and involved.
At the beginning of the pandemic, our team was faced with the challenge of increasing engagement and learning online with our children, as everyone was struggling to adjust. Throughout this time, our team needed to figure out effective ways to fill the void of interacting and learning online for our children. Adjusting to the change both online and in person included: being mindful of how to keep kids engaged maximizing the limited space as our summers are usually filled with trips and outings.
“It was difficult because a big chunk of our summer programs consists of trips and outings, so being mindful of how we are confined to the Club only, was a struggle at first.” said Arielle, our Children and Early Teens Program Coordinator. “It was trial and error every day.”
Throughout the virtual program, it was important for our team to ensure children had reliable internet access, and a specific schedule that they could follow at home. Due to the differing circumstances of each child, our team made it their priority to create a streamline of strong communication between staff and management, parents as well as children. Within the first couple of weeks, the numbers changed from 20 kids, to 100 kids at times. Arielle shared that by making communication the number one priority of developing enjoyable workshops, they were able to develop much more consistency into Week 3 and 4 of virtual summer programs. The goal was to introduce tools and materials each week so children had what they needed to participate. We wanted to minimize barriers as much as possible.
The staff developed a lot of programming activities where they could practice both independent and group learning. Activities included arts and crafts, DIY’s, games, and educational tools.
“In the later weeks, we received a lot of positive affirmations from our children in the virtual program. They loved it, and began looking forward to logging on every day.” Arielle shared.
However, the adjustment to in-person programming was filled with many restrictions as we had to be sure children were ready to adapt to the social distancing protocols. With less trips and excursions, children were working through activities much faster, so staff needed to prepare many additional activities beforehand, to fill in extra time. The creativity and interaction with other children helped them return every day and maintain interest.
“We developed a really safe space for our kids both on and offline. They were our main priority. We kept open and trusting relationships, so they knew they could count on us throughout this hard time. We learned a lot about our staff, our team, and our children.” Arielle shared.
Throughout this learning process, our staff and managers were able to practice consistency with meetings, maintain effective communication, and regular check-ins via email. Arielle shared that their team now has a better understanding as to how talking with the community on a regular basis can increase the efficiency of the work we provide to our community. Although the pandemic could have broken us down, on the contrary, it ended up building us up for the better.