Sara Stinski recalls when Boys & Girls Club of Janesville members used to groan at the thought of academic time in the computer lab, where kids could use 10 boxy, outdated computers.
Thanks to an $8,900 grant from two Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin funds, club members revel in new technology with 25 recently purchased laptops and tablets, said Stinski, the club’s executive director.
The grants also helped buy a charging station, tablet cases and kid-sized chairs.
Instead of being crammed in a small, windowless room with old computers, kids now can move freely around the club, socialize with friends and sit on colorful furniture. Academic time feels less like learning and more like a game, she said.
The club can track kids’ scores for different educational games using the tablets and laptops. It has developed leaderboards for some of the games and hands out prizes, she said.
Kids come to the Boys & Girls Club after a full day of school, so it’s important to let them unwind even as they do work, Stinski said as a boy ran past her on the way to the bathroom.
The club has another technology project that will be announced soon, but it was too early for Stinski to provide details. The club’s former computer lab will be converted to a new use.
Updated technology especially benefits the club’s low-income members, who make up about 75 percent of the club. Laptops and tablets are what they use in school, but they probably don’t have access to such technology at home, Stinski said.
Most low-income families can’t afford to buy the latest technology, and that could hinder their children’s ability to learn outside the classroom, she said.
“We have this awesome power to gather this many kids who might have disparities or gaps that we can help fill. First, I want them to want to come here. We want them to have fun,” Stinski said. “But for me, the magic of Boys & Girls Club is what can we do for them once they’re here?”