Finding a SAFE solution

After-school program moves online because of coronavirus pandemic.

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March 31, 2020 - 10:04 AM

SAFE BASE director Angela Henry reads “The Worm” as the afterschool program continues online.

With learning moved into living rooms, the after-school program SAFE BASE also is adopting a virtual version of its educational offerings.

SAFE BASE kicked off a new six-week program this week, delivering a variety of educational programming through the SAFE BASE Facebook page Mondays through Thursdays until May 7. 

Like most activities forced online because of a coronavirus pandemic, it’s an unprecedented approach that has forced educators to get creative, SAFE BASE director Angela Henry said.

”We’re connecting with kids and people beyond our community,” Henry said. “This has been a huge learning curve for all of us.”

SAFE BASE instructors will present a new video, either prerecorded or through Facebook Live, at the top of each hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Programs will cover a variety of topics, from cooking classes to learning about pets and bicycles, to paper crafts and mental health coping skills

Each instructor will determine the length of his or her program, so expect them to vary. All videos, including Facebook Live, will be available for viewing after the session on SAFE BASE’s Facebook page.

CONTINUING SAFE BASE has a practical purpose, as well, Henry said. 

The program is funded by competitive grants, including through the Kansas Department of Education. With schools closed and education moved into the homes, KSDE notified Henry to expect a possible reduction in the money SAFE BASE would receive this year. 

That prompted Henry and the school board to brainstorm options to keep the program going.

“It was a great solution,” Henry said.

With a plan in place, Henry asked the state to keep the program going without a reduction in funding. Not only that, but SAFE BASE also receives money for travel to national conferences, which is required. Since there would be no national conferences, that funding likely would be cut.

Instead, Henry asked if they could instead use the money to purchase about 21 new iPads. The instructors would use the iPads to deliver this new educational program; when the new school term starts in the fall, the new iPads would replace older models used by students.

“It helps us now and it will be a big win for us next year,” Henry said.

THE NEW program took a great deal of planning on short notice, Henry said. She credits the group of about 20 instructors for their creativity and also for digging in to learn new technology skills. Instructor Lydia Holloway was the go-to source for teaching others how to use Facebook, how to create videos and more.

Some of the topics are things instructors would have taught students had the school year continued as normal. Others are new ideas inspired by the unexpected new reality. For example, instructors will teach a craft class using paper items supplied by the school district’s breakfast and lunch program: paper bags, straws, paper bowls, etc.

Each Wednesday morning, SAFE BASE will bring in a surprise guest speaker. Henry wouldn’t reveal details, only to say that some may be well-known in the local community and in the region or state.

Students also are encouraged to practice safe “social distancing” techniques. SAFE BASE instructors include a social worker, Susan Hawk, and a registered nurse, Wanda Kneen, who made sure to keep health and safety at the forefront of the program.

“We want them outside. We want them doing things with their families,” Henry said. “But we want to make sure we aren’t encouraging kids to meet up. We thought a lot about those things.”

Participants are encouraged to share photos and videos of their activities.

Henry plans to track “likes” and “views” to gauge interest in the experiment. She’s already noticed other school districts sharing their videos, and hopes it inspires others.

“I’m excited to see what this does for SAFE BASE.”

HERE IS A look at the weeks ahead:

— Each day, Lydia Holloway will host a “variety hour” at 1 p.m. Kate Terhune will read a new chapter of a book each day at 2 p.m.

— On Mondays, at 10 a.m. Henry will take a virtual tour of interesting places around town, followed at 11 a.m. by a Tik Tok Dance Competition. At 3 p.m., Crafty Crafters will teach how to create crafts and toys from the paper items found in sack lunches. At 4 p.m., Cindy Williams teaches a cooking class.

— On Tuesdays, at 10 a.m. Ben Alexander of Southwind Cycle & Outdoor will teach bicycle maintenance. At 11 a.m., learn more paper crafts. At 3 p.m., learn how to care for your pets and take a virtual tour of the local animal shelter the dog park and more. A class about food starts at 4 p.m.

— On Wednesday mornings, a surprise guest checks in at 10 a.m., followed by a coloring project at 11. At 3 p.m., social worker Susan Hawk will teach coping skills to help children deal with the stress of not seeing friends and teachers, or having “too much togetherness” with family members. 

— On Thursdays, Alexander returns with more lessons about bicycles, including some tricks to impress friends, at 10 a.m. A tour of local trails follows at 11 a.m., along with lessons on how to make decorative rocks to leave on the trails or cards to leave at Little Lending Libraries. At 3 p.m., Staci Talkington offers “Fun Things to Do While You Are Inside.” At 4 p.m., learn more about food, this time how to make picnic items.

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