Clubs and activities in a virtual world

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, virtual schooling has become a new normal for North Penn School District. Just one of the challenges North Penn High School is facing is how to adapt clubs and activities around the virtual environment. 

As we are entering the second month of school, clubs and activities are starting up again. The first modification was the Activities Fair. Typically, the Activities Fair would be held at lunch periods during the first month of school. This year it was held online. Mr. Kyle Berger, Director of Student Activities, said that a few clubs are shut down for now; they should start up when school is fully back in the building.

“There has been an incredible deal of interest in student participation in these extra curricular activities,” Berger added.

Almost all of the clubs at NPHS are adapting in some way due to Covid-19, one of which is the Astronomy Club. Before Covid-19 hit in March, the Astronomy Club would have meetings once a month in the Planetarium, with snacks and nighttime star parties.

“The goal of those (star parties) was to go outside and we would just find a place in the grass around the building somewhere where it was dark enough to see the stars. We would just sit there, take the telescopes out, people would bring blankets and chairs, look at the stars, try to identify constellations, and look at some of the planets,”  Mr. James Bauman, Astronomy Club director said.

This year, with Covid-19, this will not be able to happen. The Astronomy Club is convening through Google Meets the first Thursday of every month. They will be using a program called Slooh, which is open to members of the club to use anytime they want. They can take photos of the moon, planets, constellations, and star clusters. Mr. Bauman expresses that  students will be using Slooh to track progress of the moon in its different phases for their first month of using the program. Students can set a telescope to take pictures of whatever the quest in the website wants them to. The telescope will take a photo at the time you set them to, no matter if you are on the site or not. 

I would say the biggest challenge facing an advisor during the Covid-19 pandemic is how you translate a social club into a virtual environment.  In the case of the Astronomy Club, it is based on students coming together to be social and enjoy astronomy. ”

— James Bauman, Astronomy Club advisor

“I would say the biggest challenge facing an advisor during the Covid-19 pandemic is how you translate a social club into a virtual environment.  In the case of the Astronomy Club, it is based on students coming together to be social and enjoy astronomy.  However, we currently are unable to do that in a convenient manner.  So our challenge is coming up with ways to still be active as a club and encourage that social interaction while also being safe and online.  I will let you know if/when I figure that out.” stated Bauman.

Another club greatly affected by Covid-19 this year is NPHS Theater/Thespians. This year virtual meetings will be held and sometimes students will get to have Q&A sessions with professional theater guests. Students in this club earn thespian points for participating in events. 

“Students earn points in Thespians to be inducted as Thespians or earn additional points toward various levels of honor bar and academic recognition.” Mrs. Andrea Roney, Theater/Thespian advisor stated.

Some events that are currently planned for this school year, all of which will allow participants to earn Thespian points, are Middle School Workshops, The Knight of the Art Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS Gala (BC/EFA), and the annual Thespian Banquet. 

“The biggest challenge being an advisor during the time of Covid is continuing to provide engaging and educational content in ways we have sometimes never considered in the past. Yet, while we are missing doing theatre and activities the way they used to be, we are also discovering or inventing ways to include more students, breathe vitality in the expectations of what should be, and find creativity outside the box. I predict some of the “new” discoveries will become part of our repertoire going forward. I hope we will continue to reach beyond past expectations to keep re-imagining what we can do and be.” stated Roney.

While we are missing doing theatre and activities the way they used to be, we are also discovering or inventing ways to include more students, breathe vitality in the expectations of what should be, and find creativity outside the box.”

— Andrea Roney, NPHS Theatre Director

With Covid-19 limiting personal interaction, Mock Trial is being greatly affected. Their club starts meetings in October, even though their competition is in January, so they can learn the rules of the case, evidence rules, and the skills to take statements and turn them into questions. 

“We compete for Montgomery County. There’s generally 26 teams that compete for Montgomery County from the various high schools… The winner of Montgomery County goes to Harrisburg normally, and in the State Courthouse, there’s a weekend where all the teams from all different counties compete against each other to find the Pennsylvania winner,” Mrs. Kathy Howland, Mock Trial advisor declared.

Mock Trial would normally go to the courthouse after it closed for the day at 4:00 p.m., then start the competition. Each competition is set up like a real trial, with real judges and jury members who score them. The jury members are mostly real life lawyers themselves. This year, the Statewide competition will not be at the courthouse, even if North Penn goes back to school in person. Many things are going to change such as some of the rules that will have to be rewritten to adapt to the online format. 

“The biggest challenge presented by COVID-19 is interacting remotely rather than face-to-face,” stated Howland.

While all of these clubs are different in their own way, the advisors are all facing similar challenges due to the pandemic. Being able to adapt has become the new normal in every aspect of life; the clubs and activities at North Penn High School are no exception.