When the pandemic hit, a lot changed for 7 year old Lillian and her family. School, which she loved more than anything, all of the sudden meant learning on a screen at home. It also meant that her mom, a single parent, would be away at work each day, while Lillian and her older sister stayed at home to study. Lillian struggled to get used to this. One of her teachers could tell she needed some extra support and connection and recommended her family to the LearningWorks Afterschool program.
When she first signed in to Zoom, she kept her video turned off. “Mommy, I’m nervous! I don’t want them to see me!” she’d say over the phone when her Mom called to check on her. The program started with lots of fun games, and soon Lillian was laughing, had turned on her camera, and changed her Zoom name to “Lillian Rocks!” A few weeks into the program, her Mom said she noticed a new maturity in Lillian. She’d call home from work to make sure she was ready, and Lillian would be sitting at the table, eager to sign into Zoom early.
Her LearningWorks teachers, Ms. Molly and Mr. Matt, have become household names. Each week, Ms. Molly delivers a STEAM kit to Lillian’s doorstep. Oftentimes Lillian is waiting. The kit has art supplies as well as materials she’ll need for activities such as Wacky Science Wednesdays. Lillian features her favorite items from these kits on her desk in her room. She loves reading the instructions and knowing the plan for the week ahead of time. She has a special lab coat for her LW science experiments (such as making homemade slime) and her Mom says Lillian often wears the lab coat around the house, while teasing her older sister who is studying to become a doctor. She tells her, “You’re just studying with your books all the time, but I’m already a doctor, look at my coat!”
Her interest in science and math has skyrocketed this year through her lessons with LearningWorks. She’s begun to develop a critical and process-oriented mind — often very focused on the steps it takes to solve a math problem or discover a truth. “Some people just believe things right away — I want to understand how it actually works,” she says. Lillian’s mom has noticed how this way of thinking has translated to her experience of the pandemic and the rules around mask wearing and social distancing. Because Lillian genuinely understands the thinking behind these health & safety measures, she wholeheartedly follows them. LearningWorks has become a fun place for her to experiment, to connect with others, and to nurture her inquisitiveness. She’s begun to find the language and confidence to express her clear and discerning mind. “This program is special to me,” she says. She thinks it could be for other kids too. Her message to them: “Take a deep breath and tell yourself that you can do it. Then…do it!”
Information for this article was provided by LearningWorks Afterschool, a 21st Century Community Learning Center Program. Photos and story by Molly Haley.