Since January 2020 we have been working with Onside Future Youth Zone to produce the Digital Creatives programme. During lockdown we’ve continued to provide fun interactive sessions for Youth Zone members over Zoom. Now, with government guidelines relaxing, we’ve been talking to Lewis Greener, the programme lead, about how Digital Creatives has run and the new challenges facing youth practitioners.

What is the Digital Creatives program?

The Digital Creatives programme is a partnership with Onside Future Youthzone in Barking and Dagenham, a purpose-built facility for the borough’s young people aged 8 – 19. The programme aims to help young people explore creativity and imagination while learning new digital skills.

What happened during lockdown?

In March, like much of the country, Future had to close its doors and rethink the way they approached their work. Dances sessions turned into social media challenges. Check ins turned into group zoom calls. Outdoor activities turned into food deliveries to those most vulnerable.

Not wanting to halt the programme, we transformed the Digital Creatives programme into an online group. With the help of Future’s amazing staff, we sent out maker kits for young people across the boroughs. These kits contained all they needed to launch their imagination and take part in the programme.

Over lockdown we ran sessions which saw children and young people, tinkering and experimenting with household objects. They explored stop frame animation and virtual and augmented realty:

What’s happened since it has opened?

In July, Future reopened its doors to host their Summer Sessions. All staff, led by Christopher Lane (Junior’s manager), worked hard to make the centre safe again. Now, they can have up to 60 young people in a day, grouped in bubbles of ten, rotating between different activities every hour.

Our sessions built on the skills they’d learnt over lockdown– making and programming creatively. During our first few sessions, we let young people explore Lego kits, which combines block programming, engineering and creativity.

How are you keeping safe?

One of the most important aspects is the cleaning. To keep the Lego clean, we’ve grouped kits depending on the session. There’s lots of wiping, cleaning and use of anti-bacterial cloths in every break we have.

What’s the biggest difference between online and in person?

Reacting to the young people! Over Zoom you can’t read body language, there’s less chance for spontaneous questions and to-and-fro-ing. At the iOi, there’s no such thing as a bad question, and we love it when young people are engaged with the work. On the other hand, it took me a while to get used to all the activity and people. A child practicing the renegade dance while you explain your activity can throw your focus a bit!

Also, after six weeks of zoom calls and using an indoor voice, I’ve almost lost my voice by giving instructions in an open hall with other activities going on around me!

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