GARDNER — With classes across the school district in a bit of a disarray due to current events, at least a few students are stepping up to make sure such critical skills such as “Brain Surge,” “Reading Time” and “Survival Skills” are not being forgotten during these critical weeks of the coronavirus shutdown.

That is why officials at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Leominster and Fitchburg and the Gardner campus have provided students with a virtual programming learning system, one that is taught by local high school seniors and first-year college students, and covers a wide variety of STEAM-related topics (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics).

“We started our virtual programming about a week after all of the schools closed because we realized that all of the kids would need something to do while at home,” explained Ladda Kosaketh, Gardner Clubhouse coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club.

The online project, called “Brain Surge,” is offered each weekday on the club’s Facebook page at noon. The program features a daily spotlight of STEAM-related online games and activities, with special highlights featuring special activities from sites with cool math games, Science Kids, and an Hour of Code and Scratch.

Among those putting online lesson plans together for the site is Charles Perrow, a dual enrollment student at Mount Wachusett Community College and Gardner High School.

“I had gotten involved with the B&G Club online through my coworker, Troy (Thomas),” Perrow said. “He told me that Ladda was looking for people to hire, and I volunteered for her for a few days to evaluate me, and I ended up getting hired.”

Troy Thomas, a senior at Gardner High School and a first-year student at Mount Wachusett Community College, said he first because involved in the local Boys & Girls Club by volunteering two years ago. He advanced to the paid position of youth development professional earlier this year.

“I wanted to take part in the virtual programming because working is an important part of my day-to-day life, and I would much rather do something productive that could be beneficial to the community than do nothing,” Thomas said.

Among the topics covered in a typical STEAM Hour include such science-related experiments such as building bridges, catapults, creative lettering, chemical reactions and making clay. Other courses offered include Survival Skills, in which kids are taught ways to keep safe while engaging in common activities such as camping, hiking and swimming. Virtual field trips, cooking hours and career spotlights are among the other courses offered during the online classes.

“I just usually think of different STEAM-related subjects or topics that kids would be leaning about in school, and find ways to incorporate those topics into a fun and interactive activity,” Thomas said.

Both students agreed that coming up with lessons for different classes each day can sometimes be a challenge.

“For my lessons, I try to look for something that kids will still be engaged in yet still find a bit relaxing,” Perrow said.

Kosaketh said she is proud of the teaching topics her two youth development professionals have managed to come up with so far for the project.

“They’re the ones going on the internet and determining what people like and enjoy, like math and puzzles and cooking,” Kosaketh said.

“What makes being part of the program so good is that I can still work during the shutdown,” Perrow said. “When the shutdown is over, it’s going to be even better because just interacting with the kids is just so much fun.”

“I enjoy working for the kids and getting a chance to make a difference, whether it’s just helping a kid with their homework, helping them find their potential, or making their day just a little bit brighter,” Thomas said. “It is a truly rewarding experience that you can’t get at any traditional teen job. I would pick empowering the people of our nation’s future over bagging groceries any day.”

Anyone interested in finding out more about the online programming being offered is invited to check out the Boys and Girls Club’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/bgcflGardner/, for more information.