After weeks of planning and coordinating, MPBGC finally launched its own Virtual Club to facilitate members' learning and ensure their emotional health. Our teens were the first to engage in programs thanks to their consistent access to electronics and social media. Very quickly, the teens take on leadership roles to create engagement opportunities for others by showing what they do to destress and cope.
On April 20th, all five clubhouses launched Virtual Club programming for members of all grades. The Unit Directors partner with school districts to bridge learning gaps. We use Zoom to host Study Hall and offer homework help. We also post YouTube videos for programs such as art, fitness, cooking, and many more so members can participate anytime and access those materials when it is convenient for them. One staff found Virtual Club to be a success because they are "able to help the kids catch up on their homework and classwork. Also, the members are able to talk to people from the Club since they missed going to the Club. This helps the kids catch up and not isolate themselves."
While online learning could be a more distracting environment, our staff came up with solutions quickly, "some of the kids were getting distracted by their phones. Having the virtual board game where they all interact is something that gets them off their phones. Because the members really want to play the game, they are very eager to finish their homework." Another staff member who works with kindergarteners found a similar solution, “ we both learned that she could access the whiteboard at the same time as me, so her reward is for us to draw on the whiteboard together. So far we've been able to get through programs smoothly with her and have even finished up to 7 pages of homework in one hour together!” They made a piece titled “Shelter In Place Garden” and shared the uplifting image with other staff:
To continue keeping members engaged throughout the week, we continue to the Club tradition of Fun Friday! Many clubhouses hosted a movie night this past Friday, and our members loved it! One staff member commented, "the members were able to watch Chicken Girls and talk about the movie. They talked about how sometimes girls can be mean and rude. They were encouraged to not be that way with each other and other people. The movie was engaging and insightful. It was also a movie that the members suggested. After the movie, members and staff work together to create a dance step and record it on video." At the end of Fun Friday, some of the kids didn't want to leave the Zoom chat!
Although the engagement rate has a slow start, the MPBGC team is working hard to promote Virtual Club in the community and identify barriers that prevent more engagement. Many staff mentioned that members do not have great wifi connections and were logged off constantly. Some members also reported the needs of electronic devices or having devices that have a limitation in virtual engagement (lags when running Zoom, no webcam, etc.).
While we continue to address these challenges to the best of our ability, we will continue to facilitate the Virtual Club programs. As one staff member puts it perfectly, " The Virtual Club is making a big impact on MPBGC members because it is keeping members connected as well as interacting with staff. Through these hard times sometimes all kids need is someone to talk to or even play games with. We don't know what is going on in their household, so this Zoom chat could be a way to escape. Also with those kids that are struggling this is very important work so they don't get left behind."