Boys & Girls Clubs across the nation are creating virtual learning experiences to stay connected to their Club members and maintain a safe learning environment during prolonged social distancing practices of the COVID-19 pandemic.
From homework help to fun fitness activities, Clubs are harnessing the power of technology to provide youth development programming. Staff are sharing ideas, schedules and tips as they rapidly adjust to the sudden changes brought by widespread shutdowns of Clubs, schools and most public gathering places where the highly-contagious respiratory disease could spread among communities.
“With so many of us isolated at home, many Clubs are now providing virtual programming. Clubs are adapting so they can continue to do what we do best – provide safe, fun places for youth to learn and grow,” said Jim Clark, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America.
Boys & Girls Club of Franklin-Simpson, located in Franklin, Kentucky, posts a daily program schedule on social media with staff-facilitated activities offered at different times during the day and evening. The Club is using technology such as Google Hangouts and Facebook videos to lead homework help, “Teen Talk” sessions, STEM activities and story time.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of Collier County in Naples, Florida, lessons and activities are customized for elementary, middle and high school learning levels. Staff have paired a suggested schedule with existing online resources and components from Boys & Girls Club programs that can be completed with some independence. Among many suggested activities, younger children are practicing their art skills with the help of videos from The Kennedy Center and high school students are preparing for college prep tests.
Clubs are also providing suggestions for virtual field trips, science experiments, mindfulness and stress relieving practices and fitness challenges. Club members, as well as youth who do not belong to a Club, can learn new skills on MyFuture, a social media platform featuring activities from Boys & Girls Clubs programs.
As the Club experience expands online, youth development professionals are receiving additional training and guidance to ensure a safe and productive experience for youth. For group lessons, Club staff are advised to adapt best practices from in-person activities such as beginning with community builders and ending with time for reflection.
Staff are also troubleshooting barriers to bringing the Club experience to a digital space, such as limited home internet access and lack of devices for many children and families. In one example, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta received 100 used laptops from Aaron’s Inc. to distribute to youth in need. Other Clubs are handing out activity bags when families pick up lunch and food boxes as part of programs to supplement the loss of school meal programs.