Talking with Ms. Teia

Child's puzzle artworkVirtual summer camp for the Coburn Place kids ends on July 23, and then Children’s Services Coordinator Teia Sherell is all about back-to-school shopping. Every year after the Lemonade Stand fundraiser, Ms. Teia and the Children’s Services staff members take the kids shopping for shoes, clothes and other necessities. This year, they can’t shop in person. “I’ve been in communication with the parents – getting the kids’ clothing and shoe sizes, learning what they need for a school uniform, and finding out their favorite colors,” she says. “But we’ll miss that shopping trip!”

The kids did all kinds of remote activities for summer camp, and many will remain part of the Children’s Services program. “We did a virtual tour of the Taj Mahal and a unit on henna design,” Teia, who has been working with children at Coburn Place for 14 years, says. “The kids enjoyed creating 3D puzzles of the Statue of Liberty. We did programs with the Indianapolis Public Library and Snapology. The kids made helicopters built out of Legos. They also created their own ‘magical creatures’ out of Legos and made up a backstory for them – covering engineering, art and creative skills.”

The campers did an earth science unit about caring for caterpillars and raising butterflies. “I released mine yesterday,” Teia says. They completed a summer safety program with the Marion County Health Department and learned about pool, bike and pedestrian safety, and health and hygiene. Kids Dance Outreach did a three-day dance lesson for them. Ruth Davis, a Coburn Place children’s advocate known as Ms. Ruth, did popular weekly craft sessions to reinforce the virtual program topics.

“A favorite activity was a computer coding workshop with a high school senior who’d worked on robotics with the kids last year,” Teia says. “The kids loved it! One 10-year-old young lady just excelled in it. She was apprehensive at the beginning, and now she’s confident. She made up a little character through Scratch and gave him actions and movements. It was so empowering for her. I believe the world needs more women in technology.”

The kids took a virtual tour of the U.S. District Court of Southern Indiana and had weekly art classes through the Indianapolis Art Center, who sent materials to be distributed to the kids and met with them on Zoom. Children’s Services at Coburn Place will continue virtually – with School on Wheels tutoring about three days a week. “They do math and reading support with the kids, and each child met with a tutor on Zoom weekly, some one-on-one and some in groups by age. I’m gaging the kids’ interest in a book club through the library and trying to get as many as possible to participate.”

Teia says she’s been talking to parents and watching the news to try to keep up with what the plans are for returning to school. “We are getting everyone’s education plans so we know how to support these kids,” she says.

Teia says the survivors’ feelings about their children going back to school are all over the map. “They’re feeling a lot like I am,” she says. “There’s uncertainty and the unknown. Some are apprehensive, and some are very confident the schools will protect their children. What’s good is that a lot of parents feel more reassured that if they send them in person and feel at any point it’s not safe, they can switch to online learning.”

And the kids? “It’s either ‘I don’t want to go back at all’ or ‘I can’t wait to get back to school.’” Teia has been talking to the kids to frame expectations for going back – letting them know they’ll have to wear masks and won’t be sitting right next to friends, that they might not be doing gym and will probably be eating in their classrooms.

“The Children Services staff members are working hard to continue offering fun and educational virtual activities until health conditions improve and support a safe return to in-person programming,” says Teia. And she can’t wait.