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Creating Culture in a Cafeteria Classroom – Staying Positive and Negative during a Pandemic

Week 1

There is no denying that the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected afterschool in a variety of ways; from scheduling and numbers to safety protocols to activities and interactions. It is very easy to focus on the negative effects, as COVID has seemingly thrown a big old virus-y wrench into the gears of the well-oiled machines that are our afterschool programs. Unfortunately, the coronavirus is here and it clearly doesn’t care if it makes things difficult for anyone, including afterschool educators. 

As with other aspects of pandemic-affected lives, we Out-of-School-Time Folk need to seek out positivity (while staying “negative”) to further cultivate a caring culture within our cafeteria classrooms. Through this blog, I will propose an OST/afterschool-themed positive outlook. In the comment section, let’s share our personal and professional stories, anecdotes and advice that fit into each theme.

Week 1-Positive Outlook:

This “new normal” allows OST Educators opportunities for reimagining, reinventing, refining and redefining their programming.

We wanted to host a New School Year Orientation/Family Event for our afterschool program, as we have done each school year. We didn’t know how to achieve this since we aren’t allowed to invite our parents and guardians into the school building anymore. Also, there are state guidelines and restrictions for group sizes anyway. We considered facilitating a live virtual event, but that would exclude families with time constraints and wouldn’t accommodate any families that joined our program after the scheduled event. We chose an asynchronous option that is popular with our district’s classroom teachers: Padlet. Using Padlet and social media, we were able to provide the necessary pertinent information to our parents and guardians about our program, staff and new safety protocols. This now leaves us the option of an interactive live virtual Family Night that includes our students, but doesn’t have to include the “serious parent stuff.” Here is a link to our Padlet Board:

How has your afterschool program reimagined, reinvented, refined or redefined a previously well-implemented aspect of your programming that wouldn’t really work during this “pandemic school year” scenario? Change your mindset. This scenario can allow opportunities. It doesn’t just take them away. Share your experiences that fit into this theme with other OST professionals by using the comment section below!


Chaelyn Lombardo is the Character Development Resource Director/Site Director at, Macdonough School Kids’ Korner Before and Afterschool Program, Middlesex YMCA


This Post Has One Comment

  1. Mackenzie Steadman

    Great idea using Padlet, Chae!
    Here at the Middlesex YMCA’s Distance Learning Program we’ve decided to do theme days on the asynchronous learning days! Middletown Public Schools is following a hybrid model with Cohort A going in on Mondays and Thursdays and Cohort B going in on Tuesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are full remote learning day for our students and since we offer a program for parents in need, we decided to add in theme days. Wednesdays seemed to be the best since they are not on as many ZOOMs so it will be less of a distraction for teachers and other students and it is our biggest day so more people can participate! Normally, theme days are something the students would do in school but with the different groups going in on different days, the school is unable to do these. So far we’ve had a costume day the Wednesday before Halloween and a Pajama Day! Both worked great and all the kids loved being able to show off their outfits! Our next one is on November 18th and it is going to be a “Wacky Tacky” Wednesday.

    I would love to see anyone else’s ways as inspiration to adapt to this new normal!

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