Supporting Academic Success During Shut-Down

This post, part of our special series on the Coronavirus outbreak, was written by Lesa Sexton, BGCA Academic Success Director.

This post goes out to all those who are trying to figure out how to keep kids learning while the world is topsy-turvy and schools are out on an extended spring break that never ends (and not in the good way).

I totally understand the challenging nature of the situation. Virtual learning is new(ish), technology can be complicated, and all kids seem to want to do is play video games/watch Netflix/eat sleeves of Oreos. Because #springbreak, right?

But there ARE ways to keep youth engaged in academic instruction. We just have to approach things a little differently, be willing to try something new, and have patience with the process. Here are 5 tips for supporting academic success all while navigating this brave new world:

Tip #1: If your Club has a Facebook page or other social media, use it to post a daily brain teaser to challenge youth.

Think of these like high-yield activities. Share a riddle, puzzle, word game, or fun math problem for youth to mull over. (Just don’t forget to post the solution at the end of the day!) Here are some sample brain teasers to help get you started (answers at the bottom of the post):

What needs an answer but doesn’t ask a question?

 How many words can you make using the letters p, o, t, s?

How can you use the numbers 4, 7, 3, and 2 to make an equation that equals 100? You can use addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division but each number can only be used once.

Also this is just an opportunity for me to plug rebus puzzles because I looooove rebus puzzles.

Tip #2: Take advantage of virtual museums!

Visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and check out their current exhibits to learn about elephants, fossils, and Ancient Egypt. Take a virtual tour of NASA’s research facilities and talk about what it would be like to be an astronaut or aerospace engineer. Check out the British Museum’s interactive Museum of the World site to learn about the history of everything (which has some incredible graphics I might add).

And if you need a little dose of cuteness in your day, check out some of the live animal webcams from zoos and aquariums around the country! My personal favorites: the Smithsonian’s Giant Panda Cam, the San Diego Zoo’s koala cam, and the Georgia Aquarium’s Sea Otter webcam. Take a look and then invite youth to do some research on their favorite animals!

Side note: Have you SEEN the viral videos of the penguins exploring the empty Shedd Aquarium in Chicago?! Or the puppies at the Georgia Aquarium?!

Tip #3: Host virtual tutoring hours

Some schools have transitioned to virtual classes complete with homework assignments, projects, and quizzes. Connect with the local schools to find out what youth are studying and host a virtual tutoring session on your preferred online platform (find guidance from BGCA on choosing a platform here). Together you can review the material and do some extra practice (Power Hour Activity Books are a great resource for this), work through any challenging homework problems, host a discussion of whatever they’re reading, or hold a virtual study group to prepare for an upcoming test.

Tip #4: Share simple science experiments to try at home

Not all science experiments have to be done using chemicals you can’t pronounce. There are lots of cool experiments you can do with just the things found around your house!

Science Fun has a whole host of fun and simple experiments you can do using basic ingredients and equipment like vegetable oil, dish soap, food coloring, and measuring cups. My personal favorite? The Dry Erase experiment.

Post the directions online and invite youth to do the experiments at home, then share a video of you doing the experiment! Be sure to create opportunities for youth to reflect with questions like

  • What did you learn from this experiment?
  • What would happen if you substituted a different ingredient or did the instructions in a different order?
  • How can you connect what to learned to the real world?

Tip #5: Don’t forget about caregivers!

A lot of caregivers are still learning how to manage in their new role as teacher, tutor, and academic coach. It can be stressful and overwhelming on top of everything else going on, so find ways you can offer support and guidance. Check out this great video posted by Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta in which they share with caregivers some of their recommended tips and tricks for homework help.

Bonus Tip:

Some days are going to be better than others. Maybe only 2 kids participated in the activity, you shared the wrong link, and your video’s sound kept going in and out. Hey, it happens! We’re all learning how to navigate this “new normal” so have patience with yourself. And just remember – tomorrow is another day!  #GrowthMindset

Check back in with the ClubX Blog often for more ideas and resources on how to maintain your mental and emotional well-being during this challenging time.  Stay safe.  Wash your hands.  Take care of yourself.  We are in this together! 

Get the latest updates from BGCA at, find programming ideas at, like the BGCA Youth Development on Facebook for YD updates including video from Sarah, and join the brand new BGCA Youth Development Community also on Facebook to connect with other Club staff on programming through coronavirus.


Answers to brain teasers from above:
Q: How can you use the numbers 4, 7, 3, and 2 to make an equation that equals 100? A: (47+3) x 2 = 100
Q: How many words can you make using the letters p, o, t, s? A: 13. (tops, spot, stop, post, opts, top, opt, sop, sot, pot, to, so)
Q: What needs an answer but doesn’t ask a question? A: A telephone

aca success pin

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