COVID-19’s lockdowns left many children in isolation, feeling lonely, and in dire need of connection and community. A recent study from SickKids reported the worrying link between the pandemic and kids’ mental health decline in these tough times.
Thankfully, through our unique BLAST after-school virtual programs, Moorelands Kids was able to combat loneliness with a positive and safe community; and fight isolation through encouraging connection.
“In a year where COVID-19’s infamous lockdowns isolated everyone and its loneliness spoke volumes, Moorelands Kids‘ BLAST cranked up the volume on connection and community.“VODA, Moorelands Kids’ Leader
CREATING ONLINE CONNECTIONS AND COMMUNITY
Budding Leaders After School Teams (BLAST) set out for a completely online program in Fall 2020 and helping budding leaders BLAST off was exactly what they did. At Moorelands Kids, we recognize the value and potential of all children and youth and we recognize their need for community and connection.
Every week for the past school year, BLAST participants met on Zoom each Tuesday and Thursday for an hour. In that hour, our Habits and Qualities (HQs) were planned into every game and activity. At the start of the program, participants received a jam-packed activity kit with all the material they needed for the year and each Wednesday, a craft video was ready for them to enjoy. After each activity, participants connected and interacted through thoughtful debriefs that linked back to the session’s HQ!
Throughout the heavy year of isolation and loneliness, Moorelands’ kids were kept strong through their weekly programs but also through the Giving Tuesday initiative, our Stay-at-Home Contests, the weekly Craft Videos and so many other community moments along the way that kept us all connected, resilient and strong.
TOP 3 BOOKS
#1 The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine by Henry Cole
#2 The Man Who Walked Between the Tower by Mordicai Gerstein
#3 The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
MOST PLAYED GAMES
BRING ME (in all of its variations) In this simple game, participants are asked to bring an object to the screen. This game could vary by colour of the object, feelings the object brings them and many other themes! Screens always light up with excitement and competitive fever, games such as these really encourage participants to choose their response!
The Wheel of Exercise The Wheel of Names – in general, is a beloved tool that we use in the program. We used it to select an activity or the name of someone in the group, but the most fun is when we collect different exercises to do. If only you knew the number of burpees we had to do this year! Before we get to it, participants are encouraged to share an exercise move because at Moorelands we believe in deciding and planning before we say go!
The Number Game Want to practice taking turns and considering one another? Then this is the PERFECT game! Set a goal number ie. 10 and on “Go!” participants will count to 10, one at a time, in no specified order and if 2 people say the same number at the same time, we start over. Not only has Zoom helped, but this game certainly draws participants to consider and understand one another as we take turns!
Winter’s Coming Since we could not be together in the gym to play Captain’s Coming, we created a virtual version during the winter. When instructions like “Winter’s Coming!” were called out, participants would put their hats and mitts on or “Snowball” which meant to duck down, or “Shovel the Snow!” by taking your spoon and pretending to shovel. We continued to create many more actions with the help of the participants too! This game can go quick so most times, trust is a big factor as we play with honest to achieve more together!
Dance “Off” Feeling sluggish? In this game, not only are you dancing but you’re racing off the screen when the music stops. If you’re caught last on the screen you will be out. Be keen to listen and quick to run off. This game will surely get heart rates up! When our heart rates are up, our wellness goals are being reached because we believe in caring for ourselves both inside and out!
CONNECTIONS THAT MAKE A LASTING IMPACT
Each site was unique in creating connections and community.
At BLAST Grenoble the kids took responsibility for planning and working together to write and perform a short story. Each participant adapted a role and contributed to the scriptwriting. It turns out our BLAST kids are definitely budding actors! The activity was a great tool to get kids to express themselves, harness their creativity and help them build confidence.
At BLAST Gateway, the participants had the opportunity to read many beautiful stories together. Taking turns one page at a time, the participants shared their many different voices and gained confidence. This was made possible by the encouragement from their peers and leaders to form a safe environment. Feelings of isolation and loneliness were the least of these young leaders’ worries!
At BLAST Thorncliffe, the participants and staff loved to get up and be active (especially on Physical Thursdays)! The participants enjoyed sharing their dance moves and choosing games to add to our wheel of games (where we play as many games as we can in 15 minutes). They all gained confidence throughout the year with the opportunities to share their ideas and dance moves! We also enjoyed getting to know each other by asking wacky would you rather questions, or by just talking with each other – showing that we can still be connected behind a computer screen. It was so great being able to see them make connections with others they might not have had the chance to before!
The fun continued as the team was determined to bring our communities together. Every site connected and as one massive community, we had our first ever BLAST-A-THON! In the weeks leading up to this event, every site was given a set of letters for the participants to figure out each day. Letters were all over the place! They were disguised in our backgrounds, in our games and even in our names! The kids were eager to find the letter of the day and as the BLAST-A-THON approached, participants unscrambled the letters into a couple of words.
The BLAS-A-THON was a BLAST as all communities connected to find out that our words created a sentence! #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork
Using this statement, a cheer was born. It may have sounded like chaos but to the kids, it was a joyful noise!
Join us as we celebrate and commemorate this year by watching and sharing our Moorelands Kids’ BLAST End of Year Video!
Partnering with Moorelands Kids means you have the opportunity to transform a child’s life. Your support helps them write their own success story. You help them break out of the isolation that social distancing can impose and provide them with safe, interactive and fun, virtual programs. Our programs – and this could not be more critical right now – teach children how to build resiliency and stay connected this summer!
KIDS NEED MOORELANDS THIS SUMMER!
Give kids the gift of connection and community this summer! Every dollar donated in the month of June increases Moorelands Kids’ chance to win $20,000!