When schools closed in the Bay Area in response to the pandemic, we saw parents in resourced neighborhoods banding together to form pods and even hiring teachers to keep their children learning. But what about families without resources? In the community around Harbor House, some of our neighbors lack access to the internet, can't afford technology, or don't have adults at home equipped to teach. That's why we began offering virtual tutoring for children enrolled in first through eighth grade. We select, train, and pair volunteer virtual tutors who meet one-on-one with students two or three times a week. In collaboration with classroom teachers and parents, tutors and students prioritize academic areas of focus and create engaging times of learning.
As we began to understand the pressing needs in our community for assistance with distance learning — busy single parents, parents who don't speak English, unreliable internet at home, special learning needs — we decided to create two safe and stable learning pods on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. One pod of eight students is a mix of K-4th graders and the other is made up of 5th-6th graders. In addition to virtually connecting with their teachers and classmates and completing homework, the children eat a healthy breakfast and lunch, enjoy some outdoor playtime, and participate in enrichment activities focused on the history and culture of our beloved city of Oakland.
Imagine a long journey of immigrating to the United States and then trying to find housing and employment without speaking English or knowing where to go for help. Newcomers to Oakland find a safe and welcoming space at Harbor House to learn English and form friendships. Our English as a Second Language class serves people from all over the world with varying levels of English skills. Due to COVID-19, our English class is currently meeting on Zoom on Tuesday evenings.
Thanks to the pandemic, the summer of 2020 was unlike any summer any of us have experienced. To provide childcare relief for working parents as well as joy to restless children, we offered a modified day camp this summer, creating small, stable groups of children in compliance with Alameda County safety measures and regulations. Ecoland Adventure Camp focused on ecosystems in Oakland. Kids and their high school interns explored plants, trees, mountains, rivers, streams, and discovered how these interact with one another, us, and with the environment as a whole. We connected it all to the story of Creation and God's magnificent handiwork. We also incorporated books and discussions on race, racism, and activism to give youth an opportunity to process troubling current events in our nation.