Helpful Tips for Learning Support Centers

BGCA’s Director of Academic Success Lesa Sexton has TONS of great tips from your colleagues on Learning Support Centers!

So your Club or Youth Center is now a Learning Support Center and you feel like your job description just went from “Site Director” to “Principal”? Not exactly sure how to navigate this new environment and set of responsibilities?

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It sure wasn’t on our 2020 list either! But luckily we are part of a Movement that is staffed with some of the most innovative, quick-thinking, and adaptable humans on the fact of the planet, and GOODNESS do they have some great ideas! We’ve rounded up some of the best we’ve heard so far to spark even more from you.

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Emotional Wellness 

  • Keep a “Club feeling,” prioritize connections, and make plenty of time for fun! GoNoodle has lots of great movement and mindfulness videos, we’ve posted a roundup of active socially distanced games, and the Back Pocket Playbook is chock-full of engaging, high-yield learning activities.
  • Have a list of approved activities (online and offline) that youth can do when they need a break: draw and color, do a puzzle in an activity book, play with playdough, read a book, listen to music, or check out some of the sites listed on this padlet of virtual programming resources.

Environment

  • Designate a visual cue to represent when youth are in a live session so others know not to interrupt.
  • Print members’ schedules and tape them to their workspace so both you and they know what they should be doing throughout the day.

Technology & Hardware 

  • Facilitate an online safety training for youth so they are aware of potential online risks and make safe choices when using the Internet. The Digital Literacy program on MyFuture has an Online Safety badge, and NetSmartz is another great resource for videos and games about online safety.
  • Empower youth to level up their digital literacy skills by earning all of the Digital Literacy badges on MyFuture! This will help them build foundational technology skills such as typing, searching the web, and collaborating online.
  • Set up all computers facing the same way so you can more easily monitor what youth are working on and so youth aren’t in the background of each other’s videos.
  • If youth have to share computers, cover them in saran wrap for easier cleaning.  
  • Purchase a pair of headphones and headphone splitters for the staff member facilitating virtual learning so they can listen to any videos or recordings in case youth are confused and need additional support.
  • Buy adapters and extension cords and ask schools for spare chargers or devices in case youth forget theirs at home.

Academic Success 

  • Offer short tutorials on common virtual learning pitfalls to help youth be as self-directed as possible. You can facilitate the tutorials yourself or direct youth to Wikihow, Youtube, or the Help tab or Support page of any specific software. Possible ideas for tutorials include
    • Cursor skills (yes to Mousercises!)
    • Formatting a document
    • Saving files
    • Searching for files
    • Taking screenshots
    • Sharing documents
    • Simple troubleshooting for when the computer freezes or the WIFI won’t connect
  • Check out this curated list of Distance Learning Resources put together by Kate Toci at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix for educational songs and games for younger youth.
  • Browse this padlet of Tutoring Resources and read the Spotlight on Tutoring with COVID-specific considerations so you can better support youth with their academic work.

General Reminders 

  • Get to know the teachers and school staff and discuss ways you can collaborate to support youth. Maintain open lines of communication so you can work together to address any issues that arise.
  • Don’t plan too far ahead as there WILL be changes to the schedule. Be prepared to think on your feet and have a back-up plan at the ready! 

And above all, be patient with yourself, with staff, with youth, with families. These are challenging times, and we are all being asked to step outside our comfort zones and adapt to a constantly changing situation. Take care of yourself, ask for help if you need it, and get connected to others. The BGCA Youth Development Facebook Group is a supportive community of like-minded Club staff going through similar situations, the Education Learning Community is committed to cultivating a love of learning and supporting Academic Success in Clubs, and our COVID-19 series here ClubX Blog is full of ideas and inspiration for this weird time.

Finally, remember to celebrate the successes both big and small. Every successful login, every completed assignment, every problem solved, every exclamation of “I did it!”. and every smile at the end of another long day- we’ll make it through this together. Whatever it takes.

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Interested in knowing more about Learning Support Centers? Check out the recordings from our recent webinars on Setting Up Learning Support Centers and Supporting Virtual School.

How is your Learning Support Center going? What other tips and ideas do you want to share with Boys & Girls Clubs across the country? We want to hear! Contact us by commenting below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org.


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