If you are anything like me, you have tried 154,565 different things at your Club or after-school program. Sometimes though, you will find a real winner...something you don't have to change, something that works. For me, that's "The Brain."
I stumbled across "The Brain" when I first began my journey with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. It was a staple at the already remarkable Henderson Unit. So what is "The Brain" you ask? It is the center of the Club...the hub by which members determine their next steps...it is the almighty schedule that helps organize the chaos that is after-school programming!
"The Brain" is a color coded schedule that divides members by color based on age. Members have voice and choice and are able to determine which area they would like to attend during a given time frame. Let's take a look at an example:
As you can see, each color represents an age group. Some areas welcome all colors while other areas are more particular. Here are some benefits of a color schedule like this:
Programming can be more targeted. It is difficult to teach 5 year old members the same topics and in the same way as 10 year old members.
Members generally feel more comfortable or safe. in our experience, younger members often feel uncomfortable or scared around older members. While we have times (switch time, color wars, some areas) where different ages can mingle (because that is important sometimes too), generally dividing members in this way promotes safety.
This model is better for staff members. Staff can implement programs, discipline measures, etc. in ways that reflect the age they are serving.
This model encourages members to visit different areas. We all have those kids who would choose to stay in the gym all day! I don't think there is anything wrong with that, but this schedule enables members to discover and learn new things.
Let's look at a full-day example!
If you are like us, you are open during School-Out Days. While these days are less populated with members, it is still nice to have some structure. Each age group has a chance to visit different areas throughout the day.
UPDATE: I met the Brain's originator! Look what Billy Mawhiney, Director of Operations at theBoys & Girls Clubs of the Sioux Empire has to say about the Brain!
Picture it, Springfield, 2001…. (I’m guessing on the year but close at least)
The story is pretty simple really. Jonathan Oglesby was the Unit Director at Henderson (Boonville location), Suzi Marquez was the Education (now called Program) Director at the time. Jonathan didn’t feel programming was the best it could be and he asked me to come do some observations. He didn’t tell anyone I was doing these so that caused some tension as you would imagine. Personally, I had just come back from working at a summer camp in Vermont called Lanakila (The Aloha Foundation). I started to put together program plans with themes and all club activities. The idea was to divide the kids into age groups (at the time we had an Ed Room, Art Room, 2 gyms, a pool and a teen center. So I developed this plan to color code the groups and create a master schedule for everyone to follow. I stole the name from the camp I had just worked at they called their master schedule “brain trust”and I simplified it. It wasn’t working having me come on board and was highly unfair to Suzi at the time. Low and behold, an opening for Musgrave occurred as the Education Director and Chris Whitehead hired me and the rest was history.
That’s the basis for the brain. I’m glad you still use it. We even used to scale it down and laminate it for staff ID cards on the back so they always had it on them. Oh good times!