“It helps us to clear our minds of worries.”

Posted on Dec 17, 2020

Lea la versión en español

In early March of this year, Nely Avelar signed up for a family literacy workshop scheduled for April modeled after the PBS KIDS show Molly of Denali. She’d heard about it from teachers at her daughter Amelie’s daycare center and thought it sounded like a great fit for Amelie’s big sister. And so plans were made to attend in April with her 8-year-old daughter Analy.

When the pandemic hit, those plans changed. Miriam Mendoza, Austin PBS’s Ready To Learn director and workshop facilitator, worked with the rest of our education team to redesign all of Austin PBS’s in-person outreach efforts to Zoom-friendly formats. Once the revamped workshops were ready, it was time to see if caregivers and children were still interested in attending.

Nely faced new difficulties once COVID-19 came to Texas, as most of us have. As a mother of five, there were countless routines and educational structures that required immediate attention and disruptive employment transitions. Attending the new workshop would require finding individualized time, along with attending a Zoom tutorial to learn the ropes. Like so many other parents who’ve stepped up this year, Nely realized that making space in her schedule for this workshop was worth the effort. With the whole family spending more time at home and practicing social distancing, alternatives to sitting in front of TV became more important than ever.

“During the pandemic we were a bit frustrated because it was difficult for us for several reasons, right? We didn't work for a few weeks, we had to stay at home longer because of the situation… this helped us to say, ‘it's alright we can stay at home and keep learning healthy things.’”

One aspect of the workshop redesign was sending necessary materials to families in the mail to enable creative learning as safely as possible. Analy and the other child participants received an array of items including crafting supplies, planners, maps and academic tools to help them research and apply informational text, just like Molly of Denali does! Each family also received a tablet preloaded with educational PBS KIDS apps as a workshop graduation reward.

One of Analy’s favorite modules involved interviewing an older member of her family. ”I liked the tradition [activity] because I could show what I have learned from my adults and from people that are older than me. My tradition was tamales.”

Since graduation, Nely has seen Analy continue to go back to the exploration techniques she learned over the five week course. “After, I noticed that it inspires her to learn how to draw more, to do hands-on activities. And what she learns, she practices with her younger sister. She also learned how to read a map and keeps on applying it even though we are no longer in the workshop.”

It certainly wasn’t a typical start to a community workshop, but Nely and Analy agree that they’re so glad they decided to move to the virtual model. Both are interested in future Austin PBS KIDS opportunities, and while Nely would prefer in-person once it’s safe, she thinks the virtual version has a lot to offer.

“I am grateful to Austin PBS for the program because it was a lot of fun and it helped us, especially in this pandemic season. It helps us to clear our minds of worries and I am grateful to the entire PBS team.”