As COVID-19 crisis deepens across the country, New York residents continue to self-quarantine and physically distance themselves from others to help “flatten the curve” and slow the virus’ spread.

Schools throughout the state remain closed, with the very real possibility that students may remain home for the remainder of the current school year.

This unique, challenging set of circumstances has led Family Planning’s sexual health community education team to find virtual ways to communicate and engage with young people across the region.

Family Planning educators have quickly shifted their focus from more traditional in-person instruction methods toward meeting its day-to-day sexual health education mission through virtual learning opportunities — with Family Planning educators developing a robust set of online resources for students, parents and teachers.

“Our educators have introduced some innovative online activities to make sure we are reaching young people and families where they are — now,” Andrea Guccia, Family Planning’s director of education, said. “And where they are right now is at home and online,”

Guccia said her team created the new virtual activities by pulling information from evidence-based program modules, and focusing on topics related to sexual risk avoidance education and personal responsibility education programming.

“They then adapted these activities for the mobile and web-based applications ‘Kahoot’ and ‘Quizlets.” Both allow students to directly interact with sexual health education information through virtual study tools and games,” Guccia said, adding that the platforms are used by two-thirds of schools in the United States

“And the study tools and games can be accessed from any smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop,” she said.

Family Planning educators have reached out to teachers throughout Broome, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego counties to offer these new lessons as assignments for Google Classroom, Blackboard or Schoology — all popular, robust online learning platforms.

“We have adapted lesson plans on topics such as: abstinence, contraception, consent, healthy relationships, dating violence, decision making and peer pressure, social media and more,” Guccia said.

Family Planning community educators have also created a 20-minute parent workshop series using Google Hangouts.

“Parents can log on and interact with an educator on topics like social media literacy/trends — for example, “The Ins & Outs of TikTok’ — healthy relationships, puberty and anatomy, and parent/child communication activities, that they can utilize at home.

Finally, to engage both parents and youth together, Family Planning’s education team has launched Thursday Trivia, a live streaming weekly activity utilizing Kahoot and Google Hangouts.

Advertised on Facebook and Instagram, parents and/or youth are able to connect with educators, answer health related questions, along with pop culture trivia.

“And the top three winners each week receive Visa gift cards,” Guccia said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

The education staff is also working on educational campaigns for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as exploring the use of TikTok videos.

“These online learning lesson plans and tools are evidence-based, student-centered, hands on and creative,” Guccia said. “And again, most importantly, it meets students where they are right now: at home and online.”

FamPlan Medical Centers Remain Open

As a provider of critical and essential health care services, Family Planning of South Central New York’s local medical centers in Binghamton, Norwich and Oneonta are open for urgent gynecological and reproductive health care — and will remain so throughout the New York State On Pause efforts.

Patients who need STD testing and treatment, birth control, or have urinary tract infections or other acute gynecological problems, can call 607-723-8306 for an appointment.

To help reduce the need for in-person appointments during the crisis, the local nonprofit organization launched a new telemedicine program to offer patients virtual phone and/or video visits for a range of medical services right from the safety of their home.

Patients who want to learn more about their visit options can call 607-723-8306, with online appointment requests also available at fpscny.org.