By: GIANNA LUGLIANI
The shift to an entirely online curriculum for school has been challenging for pretty much everyone, but especially for kids who miss all the fun opportunities physically going to school provided them with. Being stuck at home most days for the past eight months has been rough for kids of all ages, from preschool to highschool. A lot of these students used to be involved with sports or other after school activities that kept them occupied and involved with things other than just schoolwork. Also, the majority of these kids are too young to drive, so it is hard for them to see their friends or do other fun things while staying safe through social distancing. Now that a lot of these programs have been cancelled or delayed until it’s safer to hold gatherings in person again, many parents have been left wondering what to do with all their kids’ newfound free time at home in the midst of this pandemic. Luckily for the Benicia Unified School District, a solution has been created to address this problem by offering a series of afterschool programs of all different varieties being offered over Zoom.
The idea behind these 2 hour weekly classes was to provide fun opportunities for kids in Benicia schools to experiment with their interests and pick up new skills during their time in quarantine, as well as just having fun with them. Another main goal was to help students feel more connected to their peers that they haven’t been able to see in a very long time. From Stanford School of Medicine, Dr. Emma Seppela wrote, “Social connection improves physical health and mental and emotional well-being. People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression.” By allocating time and resources into these classes, it is intended to reduce students’ stress levels and improve their overall mental health. On top of this, all of these classes are completely free for all kids in the Benicia Unified School District, making them equally accessible for kids who come from all different financial backgrounds in the town. The programs and all the necessary resources for them have been generously funded by the Learning Continuity and Attendance (LCP) using the Federal Learning Loss Mitigation Funding in order to offer them for free.
Fifteen total classes are being offered for the Fall 2020 sessions, with each one ranging a six week period. Most of the classes are aimed at the younger crowd for elementary age levels, but a few are available to middle and high school kids. Class subject areas vary between cooking, drawing, exploring nature, dancing, programming, gaming, doing yoga, and a few others. My friend, Kate Manoukian, found out about these classes through email and convinced me to sign up for one with her just for fun. The one that caught our attention and was available for our age level was one dedicated to making jewelry and learning beading techniques. Before classes started, we were instructed to get our bag of supplies through a drive-by pick-up. Inside was everything we would need for the six week period. We had our first class last Thursday, and although we found out we were the oldest out of the other thirty students attending the Zoom, it was still a fun experience. By the end of the 2 hours, we had learned how to make some cute earrings thanks to Ms. Hosmer (a staff member from Benicia Middle School)’s helpful instructions and techniques.
Providing these programs will be very beneficial in helping kids make it through this pandemic without feeling as bored or restless. Hopefully it will also help with their mental health as the classes were intended to do by keeping them preoccupied and their minds busy during these crazy times.