COVID-19 has brought a halt to many of our daily activities, but it hasn’t stopped churches from pursuing their mission to love their neighbors by meeting needs. This summer, with support from Seed to Oaks, Sojourn Church in New Albany (SJNA), Indiana, piloted the first ever Virtual Oaks Summer Academy.
An Oaks Summer Academy is a two-week academic readiness program designed to help prepare students for the upcoming school year. For the past three summers, SJNA has hosted on-site academies, but this year it took some creativity for Oaks Learning to develop a way to deliver the experience online.
So how did it work?
- First, enrolled students (along with their teachers and coordinator) attended a Zoom meeting where a volunteer Morning Meeting Leader read a popular storybook and shared a Bible devotion based on its message.
- After saying goodbye to their friends, students left the Zoom meeting to watch a recorded video lesson providing instruction in math and reading skills.
- At certain points, students paused the video to complete independent practice from binders that parents had picked up from the church.
- Normally, one of the highlights of a Summer Academy day is a visit from a vocational speaker who shares about what they do for a job. This year volunteers agreed to record short, kid-friendly videos explaining their careers. These were then incorporated into the video lessons.
- Finally, students took part in a one-on-one Zoom meeting with volunteer teachers to review the lessons, share their independent practice, and ask questions.
The academy ran for two weeks with the last morning culminating in a virtual award ceremony where students received praise from their teachers, a certificate, and a book for them to enjoy. Teachers then followed up with an online parent teacher conference to discuss their child’s progress and make suggestions for continued learning at home.
One parent, whose son attended the virtual academy and will enter kindergarten this year, shared, “At the end of the two weeks he could write his letters and sound out words! I was blown away.” Sojourn Church New Albany and its Oaks Summer Academy volunteers found a way to stay on mission even in the midst of challenging times.
If you would like to talk to or schedule a free 30 minute strategy session with our Oaks Learning program manager, please email Julie Cordray at firstname.lastname@example.org.