YMCA bus gives children computer experience

Published 12:21 am Saturday, October 4, 2008

This week, children at the Creekside Recreation Center got treated to something a little extra, courtesy of the South Hampton Roads YMCA.

The YMCA InnerActive Bus, a custom-designed, bright blue mobile learning center, visited Creekside this week to teach the students in the before- and after-school programs about computers, Internet safety and more.

“It’s just an extra tool to get them better equipped,” said Leisa Todd, the InnerActive Bus coordinator.

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Todd and the bus operator, Derrick Brown, go to different recreation centers across Hampton Roads for four days each. The bus is equipped with 12 computers, wireless Internet, and a color printer to help teach children, who may not have computers at home, about various aspects of computers.

Thursday, the bus was parked outside Creekside Recreation Center, and Todd started a lesson with 10 after-school care students at 3:30 p.m. She reviewed Wednesday’s lesson on Internet safety, then launched an Internet scavenger hunt to teach the students about search engines.

The “Y Without Walls” is booked through next May, Todd said. She believes it’s the only bus like it at any YMCA. The bus reaches about 40 children a day every day it’s in operation, she said. The bus served more than 1,500 children last school year, she said.

The bus does have rules, Todd said. The students aren’t allowed to go to MySpace, YouTube, or any other such Web site. They can go only to sites Todd approves; otherwise, they are kicked off the bus.

“It’s a privilege, and they know that,” Todd said.

For the 4-year-olds, Todd works on basic skills like using the mouse, learning how to take care of a computer and basic safety information. The bus activities also reinforce the YMCA’s core values, like respect and responsibility, Todd said.

In addition to recreation centers, Todd also tries to make it to free community day events to reach even more children.

“This is giving them that extra boost,” said Todd.