On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Colleen Hayes welcomed about a dozen people into her home to make chocolate chip cookies.
“Everyone, welcome to my kitchen,” Hayes said to the Zoom group as she began an MSCR virtual cooking class with students and some Madison Metropolitan School District staff members.
While the school day looks different during virtual learning, some MSCR (Madison School & Community Recreation) “afterschool” programs have been reimagined for the virtual world as well. Hayes, who is the MSCR youth resource center coordinator and Schools of Hope volunteer tutor coordinator at Whitehorse Middle School, is leading a weekly cooking class.
Another MSCR staffer, Voyinese Adams, is the site director for Schools of Hope and MSCR After School at Sennett. Adams, known as “Ms. Nese,” said it “has been a little challenging” adjusting programming to the new reality.
“It was a lot,” she said. “Me not being computer savvy, it was a lot to figure out. I didn’t know at first how I wanted it to look and what it should look like from being face-to-face, and how was I going to start these clubs virtually?”
She and her team came up with a focus on an opportunity for students to “hang out,” with Monday and Wednesday focused on arts and crafts, games and sports and Tuesday and Thursday on music, celebrities and makeup tips. The Zoom meetings run from 4-5 p.m., but Adams said students haven’t been showing up in huge numbers.
Instead, they’re completing activities in the Google Classroom space the team set up, and they recently added a homework club to create time for students to discuss their school work together.
“As long as they participate in something, that’s great for me,” she said. “I would just like to see them hang out in a Zoom and play a game, but participation is participation.”
Hayes made sure to offer to create that “hang out” time during her cooking class, as well.
“Anyone, questions? About cooking or otherwise,” she said during the call.
MSCR has also offered weekly “Activities for Afterschool At Home” on its website. This week, students were invited on a virtual field trip or to try out yoga on Monday, make a paper airplane for STEM Club on Tuesday and learn to juggle with plastic bags on Wednesday.
Adams said she’s had most of her interactions with students over video during the school day through Schools of Hope, and it’s been “a breath of fresh air” to know her students and their families are OK.
Still, she can see that it’s hard for many students to not have interaction with their peers and is glad to be one more familiar face for them to see, even as she’s “ready to go back to normal.”
“It’s just different, we’re seeing them on computer and not face-to-face,” she said. “A lot of them are looking sad and not knowing what to do and who to turn to. I’m just there letting them know I’m still here.”
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