COVID-19 Response Plan

All of our programs have continued to operate through COVID-19. We have always used a “train the trainer” model; we partner with teachers and prepare them to bring the program to their students in the most impactful way possible. As such, our program work has seen less dramatic changes. Our work remains geared at ensuring that our teachers find ThinkGive to be a valuable tool to foster a caring and inclusive classroom, and that the program gives youth a way to practice important social emotional skills, reduce feelings of isolation and powerlessness, and connect with each other, their teachers, and the wider community.
Since spring 2020, we have been focused on the following program areas:
– Providing more flexibility in program structure to meet ever-changing schedules.
– Offering guidance in how to adapt the program to fit a remote environment.
– Offering varying program models (e.g. Social Justice Month three-prompt mini-program) that are more possible for busy teachers.
– Piloting helping teachers deliver the program remotely.
Students have consistently come away from ThinkGive feeling more connected, more confident, and empowered. Our teachers also reported that ThinkGive has been more important this year than ever before, and that the program helped them through some hard months. As one 8th grade teacher reported in May 2020, “ThinkGive was a beacon of light as we navigated through murky, dim, uncharted waters. We were reminded that even in times of crisis and uncertainty, we all still have the capacity to put others first in small, everyday acts of love and generosity.”
To be sure, the pandemic has had a big impact on all teachers and students. Social distancing and the necessity to wear masks has stifled interactions and connection between youth and between youth and adults at school. Teachers, who derive so much of their energy and passion from their interactions with students, have had to teach from behind a mask to students all wearing masks. They are working longer hours and are exhausted. They are craving connection with their students. For students, COVID-19 meant a great break in their natural development of interpersonal (social and communication) skills. It has affected their self-efficacy, perhaps their positive beliefs about the future, their sense of their value to society. It has meant less youth engagement and opportunities for prosocial involvement.
Elementary and middle schoolers who ordinarily would be using their school as a place to build their independence, identity, and relationship skills, were suddenly confined to their homes and re-defined as children, maybe as siblings. Even now, kids continue to be stifled in their development of their identities as members of a broader community.
Moreover, record levels of anxiety among youth are being reported out. Data shows that anxiety levels in youth reduce when the following is true: when youth feel connected to their peers, their classroom, and their school; when youth feel connected to an adult at school; and when youth feel a sense of belonging. With social distancing and remote or hybrid learning, connection is greatly hindered (both between kids and between kids and adults at school), kids have lost their sense of belonging, and they feel powerless in the face of all that is going on.
ThinkGive promotes the development of empathy, inclusion, and understanding – skills critical to accepting differences and treating others with compassion. Through the program’s cycle of THINK, GIVE, REFLECT, and SHARE, students build a strong sense of self, make meaningful connections, and learn to lead with empathy and kindness. Students discover that they can be agents of positive change and are inspired to make a real impact in their schools and communities.
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