Creating a Virtual Safe Space for Our Kids
Published on August 5th, 2020 in Margaret Donnelly O'Connor Education Center
By Chantel Young, Associate Education and Social Services Director
The staff at Margaret Donnelly O’Connor Education Center has been grappling with how to best support our children through the COVID-19 pandemic and the burgeoning 21st Century Civil Rights movement. Too often, we adults underestimate the impact of these challenging times on our youngest citizens. Students are being bombarded with news and information from TV and social media about serious topics including illness, social justice, and racism, yet they may be unable to process it all. Our goal at the Education Center has been to provide honest information (correcting misinformation) in a nurturing environment. For example, during one of our self-care Zoom sessions, one of our students expressed concern for her uncle who is a State Trooper. In a supportive environment, we explained the reason behind the #BLM protests and also validated her feelings regarding her uncle.
We also agreed a safe space was needed for our children to be able to process the protests spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. With these two critical goals in mind, our virtual homework club was born. At first, we figured that the majority of our work would include homework help and tutoring. We soon realized that most of our students, especially our teens, had transitioned to remote learning pretty easily.
Our main work turned to teaching our students how to manage their stress. Our children were sad about missing proms and senior trips, and they expressed anger about the injustices suffered by communities of color. A small group online curriculum was designed which utilized music, drawing, computer games and treasure hunts to teach our kids how to practice emotional self-care in their own spaces. The children loved the virtual activities, all conducted through Zoom. One 8-year-old student later told us she’d shared one of our team building activities with her family. Without a doubt we will continue to be there in every way for our students.