Inside the computer clubhouse
By Mike Barresi

After the renovations were made, computers were added to the front desk and the director’s office. But more importantly, computers are scattered throughout the club, Danielle Martin, director of technology said.

There is a “Computer Clubhouse” in all five Boston Boys & Girls Clubs. The “clubhouse” is a concept taken from The Computer Museum and the MIT Media Lab, which focus on project-based learning, Martin said.

The Charlestown Boys and Girls Club

“The philosophy of the whole computer-based initiative is that computers aren’t only in the computer clubhouse,” Martin said. “They’re in the library and the teen center” as well.

Any kid can take part in the computer programs at the club, but only certain kids continue to show up for the workshops. A junior tech team, Martin said, just completed making a movie. The kids wrote a script, then shot and edited their own film.

Martin is one of two full-time employees who work in the clubhouse.

Since the learning programs are project based, there aren’t any “classes” per se, Martin added. Instead, a couple of nights a week from 6 to 8 p.m., workshops for specific learning programs such as Photoshop, digital animation, graphic design or web design are held, she said.

The Boys & Girls Clubs have always been a place where school-aged kids could go to play, study and learn skills.

And, more than 110 years after the first Boys & Girls Club opened its doors in Charlestown, the kids still do play games—from basketball to pool. They can still get special tutoring in math, English, science and history. But the skills learned have changed.

Inside the club, children who may not get technology training in cash-strapped schools or at home have the opportunity to take part in a number of computer programs.

Why is learning computers and technology so important? Atkinson said that the kids need to be doing well in school, so when they graduate from high school, they’ll be prepared for the 21st century workforce. “Vocational skills won’t necessarily help kids any more,” she said.

The focus on educational skills isn’t “meant to devalue sports and activities,” Atkinson said, because while playing sports, the kids learn social skills to blow off steam. This is still supposed to be a fun club, she said.

Next: Obstacles and goals of the clubhouse

Inside this story:

Charlestown Home
1. An example of the club's success
2. Fundraising and renovations
3. Inside the computer clubhouse
4. Obstacles and goals of the clubhouse



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