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Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

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Wednesday 12th August 2020

BB groups up and down the country have been adapting to the world we find ourselves in, by running Virtual Sessions. Using online video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Facebook Live leaders have been able to maintain that all important regular engagement with children and young people.

Virtual sessions have been crucial in engaging with our members, providing opportunities to come together as a group and take part in a wide range of activities all from the safety of their own homes. With so much uncertainly, this engagement has been a huge boost to young people’s mental health over the last few months.

We feel it is important to maintain face to face contact at this time in order to help the young people retain a sense of normality in us meeting as a group.

Vicki Brownlee, Leader, 5th Hull

Whilst we will all be looking ahead in hope for a return to face-to-face activities, it is likely that Virtual Sessions will remain an important tool for Companies over the coming months as groups work within new social distancing and other Covid-19 guidelines. It is so important that as we move into the new session that we see our groups continuing to meet together for activities, and so where this is not possible face-to-face then we encourage Companies to consider running Virtual Sessions.

In this article we share more about Virtual Sessions, how they help support your Company with practical information and some top tips for getting started…

Getting Started on Zoom

Whilst there are a wide range of different platforms you could use, Zoom is one of the leading online video conferencing platforms, and one that we are recommending BB leaders use. This is because it is a platform we have tested and will enable leaders to easily and safely run virtual meetings and activities.

Zoom can be accessed via computers, tablets & phones and is therefore accessible to the vast majority of our members. Setting up a Zoom account takes only a couple of minutes and requires just an email address to do so. The ‘Basic’ plan on Zoom is FREE allowing meetings up to 40 minutes in length with up to 100 participants. But, if you do want to host sessions which are going to be longer than 40 minutes, you could purchase the ‘Pro’ plan which is around £14 per month.

The great thing about Zoom is that only the person hosting (known as the ‘host’) the meeting needs a Zoom account, everybody else joining the meeting just needs a link and an internet connection. That said Zoom will also enable participants to join the meeting (audio only) by telephone as well, making virtual meetings accessible to everyone (not just those with the right technology/ device).

So, we recommend checking out www.zoom.us and setting up an account for your Company to use.

As with anything new it is important that you spend some time well in advance of your first meeting going through all the settings. We have put together guidance to help you with all this, with tips and advice for getting started on Zoom.

Watch our online leaders workshop ‘Getting Started on Zoom’ at boys-brigade.org.uk/virtualsessions/

At first we just did it as a one-off trial to see how it went, but before we even finished the first call our boys were asking if they could do it every week.

During the sessions we’ve run so far, we’ve played quizzes, challenged them to the ‘find me’ game and run a music quiz. We’re also been using some of the #BBatHOME activities too. The #BBatHOME fitness dice and emoji quiz activities worked particularly well over Zoom. Next week we are getting even more adventurous and having a cook along.

More and more boys have been joining us each week and we now have nearly a full turnout each time.

Joe Harrison, Leader, 11th Northampton

What Should I do First?

Firstly, it’s really important to come together as a staff team to discuss what you hope to achieve and how you intend to do it. By running this meeting on Zoom, it is also a really good opportunity to test out the technology.

You’ll need to consider when (day/time) to hold Virtual Sessions, how often, with which age group(s) and who will be responsible for programme planning. Whilst planning your Virtual Sessions it is important to remember what makes a BB session enjoyable and attractive to your members. Sessions which are fun, engaging, varied and relevant are essential in order to keep attracting members to these sessions and for you to maintain and build on the relationships you have with your members.

You may feel that you do not have enough members in an age group to run a Virtual Session, although Virtual Sessions can work well with small numbers. However, you could join up with
a different age group in your Company or there may be another Company locally who you could join up with for Virtual Sessions. This would help to increase numbers of members taking part and spread the workload of running sessions between more leaders.

Once you have agreed to run Virtual Sessions, you’ll need to communicate this to your members via their parents/carers. This can be done via email, text, post, telephone or any other method you would normally use to contact parents/carers. Make sure you explain clearly what you intend to do, how to access the sessions and any other important information.

You may not get all young people on a session straight away, but don’t let this discourage you. Continue to remind and encourage members to get involved and take the time to listen and work with any concerns or worries they may have in joining Virtual Sessions. Not everyone may wish to get involved, this is of course ok, but as a group you may wish to consider what other ways you can still engage with those members and make them feel valued and part of the group.

How do I structure Virtual Sessions?

It’s important to spend some time thinking about how you wish to structure your Virtual Sessions, especially as the free account is limited to 40 minutes, although we would suggest for most groups that 40-minutes is an ideal time for Virtual Sessions.

You’ll need to think about what you’ll want to achieve and what activities you’d like to include. If you try to cram too much in, then the session will seem rushed and it will give little time to maintain and build on the relationships you have with your members. However, if your session does not include enough activity then there is the potential for those participating to get bored and for the session to drag.

By giving thought to your structure, this will help you to include everything you wish to in a well thought out and considered approach.

You’ll also need to consider how many members to include in a Virtual Session at any one time. If you have too many, then this may affect the quality of the session and the ability for young people
to interact and take value from the activities. We would suggest looking at splitting the sessions if you have more than 15 young people.

What Activities Can I Run?

To begin with, thinking of activities to do as part of Virtual Sessions can seem daunting. However, the more sessions you run, the more activities you realise are adaptable for a Virtual Session. Here are some sources for activity ideas which will help you run your Virtual Sessions.

BB Virtual Sessions Resources

There is a page dedicated to Virtual Sessions on the BB website. On here, as well as finding guidance and support, you’ll also find a library with over 100 ready-to-use activities. Many of these activities also come with PowerPoint slides or a PDF which can be downloaded and used to run your session (by sharing your screen). Activities include action games, quizzes, memory games, challenges, devotions, and a whole lot more.

#BBatHOME Activities

Some of the #BBatHOME activities will be suitable for use as part of Virtual Sessions. Since week 8 of #BBatHOME, ‘Virtual Session Ready’ activities have been marked with a box in the top right corner of the #BBatHOME activity card. Most weeks this has included at least two activities from each age group. Activities have included Guess the Sound, Minute to Win It Challenges,
Thumbs up for God, World Flags and many more. A supporting document to help with adapting #BBatHOME activities to be run as part of a Virtual Session can be found within the Virtual Sessions area of the website.

Devotional Videos

There are a wide range of devotional videos, suitable for different age groups which have been produced over the last few months. Including one of these videos in your Virtual Session can be a great way of communicating a thought for the day, having a short discussion and sharing a part of the Bible.

Sharing with Others

Many BB groups across the Brigade will be adapting activities to run virtually. Start conversations with other BB leaders, whether in your Battalion, District, Region or nationally. Share your ideas and resources with them and they will hopefully share things that have worked with you too. Has your Battalion/District got a platform for you to do this? You can share with leaders nationally on Facebook, by joining the leaders Facebook group.

Top Tips for Running Virtual Sessions

  • Get to Know the Functions – Zoom has many different functions which you can use to enhance your Virtual Sessions. Functions include sharing your screen/sound, muting all participants, breakout rooms, spotlighting videos and waiting rooms, to name a few. Check out the webinar ‘Getting Started on Zoom’ for a demonstration of some of the most useful functions at boys-brigade.org.uk/virtualsessions/
  • Keeping Everyone Safe – Safeguarding your members whilst running Virtual Session is extremely important. With a few easy to implement steps, keeping your Virtual Sessions safe for all is an easy process. For guidelines and tips on safeguarding for Virtual Sessions check out the ‘Getting Started on Zoom’ leaders Guidance at boys-brigade.org.uk/virtualsessions/
  • Themed Nights – Many groups enjoy running themed nights for their members, particularly with the Anchor and Junior age groups. Virtual Sessions don’t need to be any different. Themed nights can be run virtually and provide young people with something a little bit different to look forward to and take part in. Potential themes could include Pirates (Pirate Bingo, Captain Says, Treasure Hunt), Spies (Code Breaking, Memory Games) or Superheroes (Superhero Action Game, Superhero Logo Quiz, Superhero Fancy Dress).
  • Recognising Achievements – Having a reward system or
    a points chart can be a popular way of encouraging and rewarding members for their participation and achievements. Points can be awarded for attending sessions, winning challenges, playing games etc. Keep a tally and award
    prizes on a weekly, monthly or termly interval. #BBatHOME certificates, medals and trophies are available, find out more at boys-brigade.org.uk/recognising-achievement/
  • Weekly Challenge – Setting a weekly challenge at the end of Virtual Sessions can be a great way to keep members engaged with BB throughout the week and give them something to work on. Encourage them to take a photo or video of the challenge and then these can be shared with the rest of the group during the next Virtual Session. Challenges could include trick shots, a craft activity, baking, helping around the home and so on.

The Future of Virtual Sessions

Virtual Sessions will continue to be an important tool for BB groups into the Autumn term, with Companies responding to social distancing guidelines and requirements. Because of this BB Headquarters will continue to provide resources which can be run virtually throughout the whole of the Autumn term. At least one activity per week per age group will be available to support and assist Companies running virtual sessions, and there will be a programme planner to support this.

The programme that BB groups have been running through Virtual Sessions so far, has shown the BB at its best. An organisation that is pro-active, inventive, caring and passionate about children and young people. The next few months will continue to require leaders to show these qualities, as we engage and encourage our members through the Autumn term.

We hope you are ready and prepared to give Virtual Sessions a go if you cannot return to face-to-face activities next session.


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