Winter Break Activity Ideas 2020



Illustration by Ellie Lind

Sophie Yang and Lila Portis

As the weather gets colder and COVID-19 restrictions continue to be maintained, ETHS students are still encouraged to have fun in a safe and secure manner. Here are some ideas for activities to do over winter break: 

Throw a Powerpoint Party

Creative alternatives to hanging out with friends can be hard to comeby, but a new trend emerged from TikTok: Powerpoint parties. Gather a group of however many friends you’d like and set up a Zoom meeting where each person presents a Powerpoint or Google Slides to the group. Each presentation focuses on funny topics. For instance, rating each other’s instagram photos, superlatives for each member of the group, or even something absurd like which lunch meat they would be. Junior Kate Newbold did a Powerpoint night on Halloween.

 “It was really fun to see all the creative ideas that my friends came up with. People came up with a variety of ideas, and every single one was hilarious, and I would love to do it again,” Newbold explains.  

What’s great about these parties is that it can be done from the warmth of your own home while keeping everyone safe. The idea is to come up with a topic as creative as possible and have lots of fun with your friends. 

“It’s super easy to put together, even over Zoom or with family, so anybody can participate if they want to have a fun night,” Newbold says. 

Inspiration for topics can be found on Tik Tok by searching #powerpointnight. 

Interview Your Grandparents

According to the CDC, eight out of 10 Americans over 65 have died from COVID-19. Grandparents are in the highest risk group, but teenagers can do their part to keep them safe while still communicating with family. Through stories on successes and failures, funny encounters, and captivating stories, grandparents can offer wise insight on life. Try interviewing them by asking some questions about their life and lived experiences such as: What was your first job? What’s the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn? What are you most proud of in your life? FamilyTree has a longer, more comprehensive list of ideas for an interview with a grandparent. 

“I didn’t know that much about my family history, so it was nice to know more and feel more connected to my family,” Junior Maeve Schanou says. 

After interviewing both sets of grandparents, Schanou feels closer to her family. 

“It can give you more insight into who your family members are and make you feel closer to them. This is so important now, when it’s so much harder to feel connected to family members we can’t see in person,” Schanou explains.  

Watch Shows/Movies Together Virtually

The end of 2020 marks not only the end of a year but of a decade filled with entertaining films. With the frosty weather, many students want to curl up and enjoy a friend’s company from the warmth of their beds. An easy way to virtually connect with friends over break can be through watching movies and shows together. The Chrome extension Teleparty allows people to watch media simultaneously and chat with each other. Formerly known as Netflixparty, Teleparty now offers watching together on more platforms: Netflix, Disney, Hulu and HBO. 

“I like to watch TV with friends because it is more social than watching alone,” Junior Zyon Loiseau says. 

Watch Party, which has the same functions as Teleparty, is exclusively for Amazon Prime Video. Watching shows together allows for the safety of staying at home but contributes to the social fulfillment that students need to remain connected. 

 “I would recommend watching shows with friends because, right now, it is the closest we can get to hanging out,” Loiseau explains.  

Create a Collective Playlist

With the variety of streaming services, students now have an immense accessibility to music. Everyone has different tastes, and an easy way to listen with friends is to create collective playlists. Different people can add their favorite songs, and you can have a wide range with a bit of everyone’s taste. Shared music is a really simple yet fun way to keep up with friends. Through Apple Music, you can share playlists, while on Spotify you can have multiple people directly add songs to a “collaborative playlist”. 

“I made a joint playlist because me and my friends have similar music tastes, and this is a good way to hear new good music,” junior Sarah Sollinger says.

Spotify even has a feature where individuals in any place can stream music at the same time. One member just starts a session, sends the link to their friends, and listens to the same songs as everyone else in the group.

“I would recommend other people do it, because it’s a fun way to stay connected. It also puts meaning behind the songs and can make you happy, because your friends picked those songs out for you,” Sollinger explains.

Practice Yoga/Meditation

Winter break serves as a period of relief for students, as the time off allows for self-care and reflection. An easy way to detox your mind is practicing yoga. It has been proven to have a multitude of physical and mental benefits including stress relief, inflammation reduction and improving flexibility and balance.  

“Yoga creates a space that really embraces collective empowerment and mindfulness. Regardless of one’s physical capacity or frame of mind, yoga offers a space of just being, and I really love that,” junior Lily Aaron says. 

Within the last year and half, Aaron has gotten into yoga, first taking classes and then working on training to become a teacher at local studio, Heaven Meets Earth

“I was at a place in my life where I wasn’t confident or comfortable in a lot of aspects, and yoga offered a community that held no judgment,” Aaron says. 

The practice of yoga originated in Northern India, thousands of years ago, and continues to serve as a space for discovering state of mind. With the intense stress that students face from daily life, yoga can be turned to in order to destress. Beginners can find introductory videos on YouTube, or check out some local yoga studios in Evanston. 

“Especially now, self-care is crucial to survive in today’s climate,” Aaron explains. 

Redesign Your Bedroom 

Right now, many teenagers have been treating their bedrooms as classrooms, dining rooms and even movie theaters. Some choose not to leave their bedrooms at all during the day. This holiday season, students have been paving way for the new year by organizing their room to start fresh. Starting a garden, creating a photo wall or adding some LED lights are just a few ideas. 

 “Having a clean space is really important in terms of mental health. It makes me feel more refreshed, organized and less anxious when my room is clean and decorated the way I want. It also just gives me a sense of pride if I really like the way my room turned out,” says sophomore Leah Johnson. 

For room decor ideas, try visiting Pinterest or World Market. 

Go on a Late Night Walk with Friends 

As the weather gets colder and friends are still not allowed inside, Evanston students have been turning to outdoor excursions to satisfy their socialization needs. Evanston has a well-lit lakeside path that is great for running, walking, biking, rollerblading, etc. Junior Keiran Dubey has been traversing Northwestern and Clarke Street Beach with his two best friends. He says the activity’s appeal lies in its accessibility, convenience and general fun. 

“It’s really easy to do,” Dubey says. “[We] just stop and look at the scenery and play some music.” 

Dubey also recognizes that walking at night can be dangerous, so only walk if you feel comfortable.

 “If you’re a woman, then [it’s] probably [different],” he says. 

ETHS students are encouraged to walk in groups and be cautious if they are out. Walking during the day can also be a safer and warmer option.

Go See A Light Show

This year, places like the Chicago Botanic Garden and Lincoln Park Zoo will continue to host outdoor light shows for guests. People are welcome to walk through the parks and watch winter flora and fauna be illuminated under the sky. Some shows even add music for ambience. For sophomore Kelsey Blickenstaff, the journey to the Botanic Garden every winter has become a tradition for her and her family. 

“I go with my grandparents and my cousins,” Blickenstaff explains.says. “My cousins are members, so they probably told us about it and we went together.” 

For Cook County residents, the garden charges $20 on weekdays and $25 on weekends and holidays for parking. Due to this year’s special circumstances, there have also been some changes made to ensure the safety of guests. 

“[Because of COVID, the park now] has [entry] time slots, and there’s a building people used to be able to go in that now you have to pass through. There was a place to eat that now requires people to stand outside, there are heat lamps, and everyone was socially distant the entire time,” Blickenstaff says. 

The show lasts until January 3rd, 2021. The Lincoln Park Zoo Lights also last until January 3rd, and cost five dollars, except for on Nov. 24 and Dec. 9, 17, 21 and 29 which are free. 

Write Music

Another creative outlet students should consider pursuing is songwriting. Whether you play an instrument or not, modern technology now allows compiling different sounds to make music. Software platforms to do this include GarageBand, MuseScore, Noteflight, Flat, ScoreCloud and Musink. They provide keyboards, loops, dynamic settings, amp modelers, autotune, pitch correctors and more. Sophomore Taure Shambee suggests students start with a beat and add lyrics on top. Shambee and his family have been into music for a while, and his parents were underground Chicago artists who made, sold and performed music on the underground level in Chicago. 

“Don’t overthink it; you don’t have to rhyme,” Shambee says. “Look for inspiration in people you like, and listen to the ideas people around you have.” 

Shambee released Last Time and On It in June. 

“Quarantine has definitely made me work harder,” he adds. “[But] remember to have fun with your music,” Shambee explains. 

Shambee’s new EP Lost was released on December 8th. 

Contribute to the Evanston Community

During this time, many businesses and organizations are having a hard time finding ways to survive. According to USA Today, an estimated 25,000 stores are predicted to close this year due to COVID-19. Students are encouraged to actively participate in supporting local businesses. 

According to the Evanston Animal Shelter, students can help out by bringing in supplies such as hand soap, bleach, liquid laundry detergent, paper towels, rubber gloves, dog toys, leashes or any ground canned food (except for fish flavoured). Other notable organizations include Citizens for a Greener Evanston, Cradle 2 Career, Books & Breakfast, Citizens Network of Protection, Logan Square Neighborhood Association and the Moran Center. These operations work to make Evanston more sustainable and environmentally resilient, help ensure all Evanston kids have equal opportunities, aid students with homework and provide nutritious meals, assist residents in filing police misconduct complaints and work to help students receive justice in court, respectively. Support Evanston and donate if you can. Anything is much appreciated.