For the past 4 years, Get Unplugged, a collaboration between the Berkshire Co-op Market and Berkshire South Regional Community Center, has provided a week-long series of screen-free programs with an emphasis on environmentally friendly and community building activities that are free to the community. This program often coincides with “National Turn Your TV Off Week”, April vacation for the local school districts and Earth Day. This year, we are looking forward to the creative possibilities of celebrating Arbor Day in the same week. At Get Unplugged, kids drop in and sign up for a program of interest: they can learn something new or find a way to be more involved in our community. We are lucky to live in an area with a strong emphasis on the environment and the farm-to-table movement; effective non-profits abound in our community, and they come equipped with knowledgeable staff members who excel at shaping the young minds and bodies of our participating children through programs related to cooking, gardening, environmental awareness, fitness and more. Returning organizations that have volunteered their time to participate in this program are: Berkshire Botanical Garden, Community Cooperative Farm, Crossfit Great Barrington, The Nutrition Center of Pittsfield, Greenagers (a non-profit that connects teens with agricultural work opportunities), Project Native (a non-profit that connects people to plants that are native to the Berkshires), Center For Ecological Technology ( a non-profit that provides practical solutions that save energy, materials and money to community members that have a positive impact on the environment), Soccer, Swim Safety and Zumba (the latter three thanks to the Berkshire South Regional Community Center).
The Berkshire Co-op Market plays a major role in the development, organization and step-by-step process of planning for Get Unplugged week. We connect with community organizations and workshop leaders, assisting in the organization of marketing materials that are sent to schools, published in local papers and posted in the community. In the past we have been guests on a local radio station to promote Get Unplugged. We work with a very limited budget to provide financial assistance to community organizations that require funds to present their programs. Last year we had almost 300 participants for our program. With additional financial support we can offer a stipend for workshop leaders, offer transportation to children who need it, and assist with the cost of materials.
The objectives of Get Unplugged are to provide children with earth friendly activities, to raise awareness about the environment, and to offer workshops that are screen-free. The Berkshire Co-op Market and Berkshire South Regional Community Center strive to provide community-building opportunities to everyone regardless of membership. While the primary goal of Get Unplugged is to educate our youth, it also provides a free marketing opportunity for the local organizations that offer such classes. Our program aims to provide a space for community members to come together and have the opportunity to teach a new skill or talent. Our program also serves as a networking venue for members in our community: for children, their parents and the workshop leaders.
Throughout its four years, Get Unplugged has been highly successful in creating opportunities for children to shine. For example, on our first Garden Day Greenagers and Community Cooperative Farm worked with kids to clear out a space for a new community garden at the Berkshire South Community Center, and built raised beds for the garden. One volunteer taught a child how to effectively and safely use a saw; that child then brought the lessons learned to other children in the program, as he demonstrated how to properly measure and cut the wood. One child was disinterested in participating, wanting to leave. A Greenagers volunteer engaged him with filling a raised bed with dirt and planting seeds. He was hooked. That child was the last to leave the garden as he carefully decorated the raised bed with sticks and yarn. When he finished, he turned to the volunteer and asked, “Do we get to come back tomorrow?” This child's experience turned from something he 'had to' do into something he 'got to' do! The next year, that child was the first out the door to greet the garden crew. This program attracts children of varying abilities. The child described above has significant physical and emotional limitations. We have seen children of ranging abilities engage and flourish in the programs we have offered throughout the years. Thanks to the dedicated organizations and community members involved in Get Unplugged, these children are given time and attention while engaging in important, meaningful activities. This is how communities are built.
"Get Unplugged has really changed the spirit of school vacation for families who participate. What was once a time of keeping kids entertained and distracted by all means including TV’s and video games has become a week of countless engaging and empowering screen-free activities. It's like a different world for parents and kids alike." Provided by Matt Novik, Communications Manager, Berkshire Co-op Market
“Berkshire South Regional Community Center has been the lead partner in the Get Unplugged program for the last several years. The program drives in community youth to participate in exciting programs on a drop-in basis over the course of February vacation week. This powerful program redirects children’s focus from screen time to environmental and hands-on interactive activities. It connects them and their families to the resources available at the Center and with the local partners that implement programs; it encourages healthy, eco-conscious lifestyle choices that have a lasting impact on the child. For all parents, especially those struggling to make ends meet, the program helps to provide for safe, quality activities for their children, while connecting them with a fun social and educational opportunity for free. Together the offerings educate children on wellness, environmental stewardship, local agriculture, cooking and the arts among other areas.” Provided by Jenise Lucey, Executive Director, Berkshire South Regional Community Center