Literacy enrichment continues at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments
School may be coming to a close in Springfield, but the fun and learning go on at Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments.
Once each week, children connect via Zoom with Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Zenaida Burgos, who offers activities ranging from reading aloud, health and safety tips, and conducting science experiments for the elementary aged children living at Sullivan. Most of the children attend the nearby Edward P. Boland Elementary School.
Burgos said that as the spring melts into summer, more and more children are participating.
“The children love the video chat,” Burgos said. “Everything we do is about literacy, and we’re covering a lot of ground now. We’re looking at a variety of subjects and trying to keep things fun.”
T/R/S! is in its 11th year, connecting three SHA housing developments – Sullivan, Robinson Gardens and Duggan – with their feeder elementary schools – Boland, Dorman and Indian Orchard. The program involves entire families, with a focus on boosting literacy among children from birth to grade three.
SHA Executive Director Denise R. Jordan said the video chats at Sullivan are a great way to promote reading and to make learning interesting and fun.
“We promote the kind of learning that help children in school, and in their lives,” Jordan said. “This program reaches out in the exact way so that children as well as families are involved in the process.”
Burgos said that in recent weeks, attendance in the program has jumped, with all children enthusiastically participating.
One recent activity demonstrated how to separate oil and water, adding color and one Alka-Seltzer tablet, forming a bubbly, beautifully moving crown as the ingredients mixed. One child commented that the end result looked like “a tornado under water,” and Burgos said one parent watching with her children said she would reproduce the activity at home.
“It was a great experience with the children, and their mom wrote the ingredients of the experiment. She is going to have her children do it at home as well. The children enjoyed the video chat as well,” Burgos said.
Other activities include reading books out loud. A few recent selections were ‘Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?’ by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle; ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ by Eric Carle, and ‘Biscuit Goes to School’ written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Pat Schories.
Burgos said one popular surprise was when her young grandson read aloud to the Sullivan children on Zoom. She hopes to get more children on board during the summer vacation.
“The children love the video chat. They are all excited and are looking forward to doing the video chat weekly,” Burgos said.
Art projects are also included, with children participating along with Burgos, who explains as she goes. One recent art lesson featured children making a card, using crayons and featuring their own words, to send to a friend or family member.
Burgos said she is staying in good contact with Boland School Principal Lisa Bakowski and some of her teachers, to ensure her own lessons match with what children are learning in school.
She also uses the time to remind families that free boxed lunches and dinners are still being provided across the city, including at Boland. The meals come courtesy of the Springfield School Department and Sodexo.
“We want them to be sure to receive the meals that would normally be getting at school, just as a reminder that this program is ongoing,” Burgos said.
And, of course, there are ongoing discussions on the COVID-19 pandemic, which range from how the virus has impacted their lives, and the importance of taking safety precautions when going out.
Burgos said she has been in regular contact with parents at Sullivan, including those who regularly participate in the group activities that occurred frequently before the pandemic forced a temporary end to such gatherings.
“It is important for them to know that I am available as well and to give them the support they need through this pandemic,” she said. “The parents as well are very appreciative of the ongoing connections that I have with them.”