Virtual Check-Ins: A New, and Much Needed, Way to Stay Connected
When Illinois’ COVID-19 stay-at-home order was issued in early March, Chicago Learning Exchange took immediate action to ensure the CLX community could continue to meet, share, and collaborate. In fact, recognizing the need for even more connection during this uncertain time, CLX instituted weekly virtual check-ins to supplement the monthly community meetups that have become a cornerstone of the network. With so many out-of-school time educators seeking community and ideas on topics like how to transition in-person summer programming to the virtual space or navigating the challenges of working with youth during the pandemic, virtual check-ins have become an integral part of CLX’s offerings for its members.
“I’m thankful CLX decided to pivot to virtual check-ins,” says Shoshana Shapiro, a Teen Educator with the Field Museum. “CLX has always been where I go to be inspired; the people who attend the meetings are a really creative and innovative bunch, and it has been great to have the opportunity to learn from them and hear new ideas even virtually.”
From the very first virtual check-in in March, it was clear that educators needed to continue their connections even more frequently than before the COVID-19 crisis. “The virtual check-ins have been a testament to the way CLX has always been responsive to members’ ideas and needs,” says David Bild, an educator with the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. “The check-ins have given everyone a chance to connect with other educators who are working through similar challenges and opportunities and share concerns and ideas.” The virtual check-ins have garnered an average of nearly 30 attendees per week, and have made great use of breakout rooms to foster collaboration, idea-sharing, and deeper discussion on myriad topics. For example, at the April 16 virtual check-in, there was a breakout session called “Hack the Pandemic,” which focused on using the tools available to OST educators and encouraging students to be resourceful in designing and developing products. In other breakout sessions, participants discussed how to design experiences that allow interests to ignite youth motivation to learn, and how to design environments that build supportive relationships with peers and adults.
For many, one of the biggest benefits of the virtual check-ins has been brainstorming ways to move in-person OST programming to the virtual space. “There’s a lot of fertile ground to make a meaningful summer experience for youth across the city,” says David. With so many different approaches to implementing remote learning opportunities, having a space to bring ideas to the table and hear what others are doing has been invaluable to the CLX community. “I’ve also really appreciated the sharing of other available resources in the city,” says Shoshana.
The virtual check-ins are a reminder of the strength and dedication of the CLX community. When faced with obstacles, our community members come together and find solutions, and use the moment to spur creativity, innovation, and collaboration.