When the director of programs at the Tulsa Dream Center Tim Newton responded to the Thunder’s request for a classroom wish list, he figured he might as well be as thorough as possible. He and his staff of teachers got together and brainstormed every item or activity that would be ideal for their students to have during their “brain breaks” from virtual learning, figuring that only a few of the items would be chosen.
Newton was beside himself to realize that the Thunder fulfilled the entire list. Boxes upon boxes of educational activities for students of all ages were piled into the classrooms taking over every table in sight.
“Oh man. It’s crazy because they asked us for ideas and we gave him a list of items not thinking that we were going to get all of it,” said Newton. “It was a huge surprise.”
“It's really special to be able to give them everything that they needed,” said the Thunder’s director of community relations Erin Oldfield. “When we saw the list, we knew we couldn't do just one, two, three or 10 things. The ability to fill the entire list and give them everything they need really is just to serve the kids.”
The kids were equally, if not more surprised. Newton told the students to close their eyes as he filed them into the classroom where there were tables filled with games, activities and toys piled high like an educational treasure trove. When they finally opened their eyes, a collective “whoa” sent smiles across the faces of every adult in attendance.
“It was really cool. It was hard to take it all in,” said Zakiah Germany, an eigth-grade student at the Dream Center. “I started looking around and it was very cool.”
The Dream Center offers a space for students in Tulsa to do their virtual learning while classes aren’t meeting in person due to the COVID pandemic. For the students like Zakiah, just like so many around the country, the school year has been relegated to life in front of a computer for hours on end. Those “brain breaks” when they get to step away from the laptop and engage in non-digital activities have become one of the more exciting and valuable parts of the day for the 100 students served in the Dream Center’s classrooms. With the new items that the Thunder added, they now have a myriad of options to choose from to fill that time.
“It's extremely valuable,” said Elandra Dabney, site coordinator and sixth-grade teacher. “it's good to step away and say, ‘hey, there's other things for you to do.’ That's going to help enhance their brain and help them enhance their schoolwork that's outside of just computer work. It's really good for them.”
“It made me feel good,” said Jesiah Mays, a 13-year-old student at the Dream Center. “I'm thankful that people out there actually think about donating to a place in Tulsa like the Dream Center.”