In a time where calls for social distancing are the norm, staff at Horace Mann Elementary School have been working to bring students together — virtually, that is. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school started a slew of virtual clubs for students to stay connected with each other during this time apart.
The virtual clubs are hosted through Google Classroom and the activities run the gamut. For those looking to burn off some energy, there’s the Workout Club. Maybe expressing emotion through art is more your child’s thing? If so, there’s an Art Club as well. Or maybe your child just wants to chat with some friends? Well, there’s the Lunch Time Chat Club then.
Chelsea Monahan and Christopher Willey, advisors for the Workout Club, bonded over a shared love of fitness. When staff started creating clubs, the pair began brainstorming how they could share that love of fitness with students.
“Being cooped up can be difficult,” Willey said. “One of the reasons I stay active is not just physically but mentally. It really does help put you in a good frame of mind.”
The pair hope to encourage students to get outside and stay active. Monahan said they tailor their workouts, so that students don’t have to have any fitness equipment. For instance, one week they asked students to get out a deck of cards and had them draw cards with each suit representing a different move.
From there, students can upload a video of themselves completing the challenge and interact with one another’s videos. Manahan and Willey also organized live workouts via Google Meet.
Humor is yet another outlet Cherry Hill educators are hoping to give students stuck at home. Heather Hayes, who oversees the Joke Club, said her favorite part of the school day has always been the time in between teaching spent joking around with her students. So, she thought why not give students back that opportunity?
Each week, Hayes gives students a punchline, and it’s up to them to come up with the joke. Then, the students can log on to Google Meets and deliver their jokes.
“It’s a time where we’re stepping back from the academic piece of it and can really have our personality come out,” Hayes said.
She said the club has really enabled students to come out of their shells, and she’s considering continuing it in person if/when in-person instruction resumes.
Similarly, Bryan Warner, who oversees the Art Club, also provides prompts for students who then log on to share their creations. He keeps the prompts general and open to interpretation, so that students can use their creativity and the tools at their disposal to create their art.
“I feel like it’s important for kids to have a lot of different activities or different approaches for expressing themselves,” Warner said. “To me drawing is a way I kind of recalibrate my brain; it helps me proces the stress. I think for visual people it’s their way of thinking through things.”
Recently, Warner encouraged students to draw something related to the concept of happiness. He plans to install the students’ pieces along the sidewalk near Horace Mann.
For Sarah Thomas and Stacey Hollander, who run the Lunch Time Chat Club, they wanted to give students the social interaction they might be missing midday. So, at the students’ assigned grade level lunch time, they host an open forum for students to catch up with one another.
Hollander said there’s no lesson, and while they may sometimes prompt students with a question, their goal is mostly just to allow students time to reconnect. She said it’s comforting for them to see a familiar face.
Thomas echoed the sentiment. She said while the other clubs have more of a focus, their club is simply about just catching up.
“It just flows, and it’s just a nice authentic connection time,” Thomas said.