Student activities persist virtually and in-person

Students participate in a CSC chalk-out on Sept. 21.

Mira Littmann

Students participate in a CSC chalk-out on Sept. 21.

Louise Bond, Staff Writer

With the school year starting fully remote, opportunities for engagement with peers and the community are more important than ever. ETHS is still dedicated to supporting clubs, and activities continue to create opportunities for student involvement whether remote or safely in-person. ETHS released the protocol for outdoor, in-person activities on Aug. 11, with safety restraints including a maximum of 25 people per activity pod (a group of people who only interact with each other for the duration of the activity), masks, social distancing and self-screening for symptoms before beginning the activity—a new feature on myETHS. 

“I want as many students to get involved as possible,” Director of Activities Nichole Boyd said. “I want us to take advantage of all the goofy little challenges we’ll do, still celebrate spirit weeks and be active and visible on social media. I want us to be as virtually connected and virtually involved as we can be.”

The prominent Speech and Debate club is one group that is hosting many opportunities for virtual engagement.

“We have moved practices and competitions online. The national circuit of tournaments actually moved online last spring, so that transition already happened,” coach Jeff Hannan said. “I just hope we don’t burn out on screen time. Our kids and coaches do great work every year, so I am certain this will be no different.”

Senior congressional debater Maddie Young is anticipating big changes in the structure and expectations of debate in this new remote environment.

“We are now giving speeches sitting in front of a computer screen instead of standing in front of a room of people, which means we have to learn how to debate in a new way,” Young said.

The overall club experience will also be different due to travel restrictions and lack of in-person events.

“I have so many amazing memories from spending time with people on the team and from travel tournaments,” Young said. “It makes me sad that I won’t be able to create more of those memories this year.”

The Community Service Club hosted its first club meeting of the school year on Zoom on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with about 100 people in attendance. The club will be offering both virtual and in-person service activities including baking for Beth Emet over Zoom, Edible Acres workdays, political chalk out and a food drive.

ETHS hosted its first-ever Virtual Activities Fair on Sept. 8 on a widely shared Flipgrid site where all clubs and activities were asked to make a 60-second video promoting themselves to students. There was also a Virtual Volunteer Fair held on Sept. 10, which consisted of a Padlet with clubs and community organizations with volunteer opportunities for students posting information, as well as a live panel at 4 p.m. with representatives from some of the featured organizations including Cradle to Career, Boomers 2 Zoomers, Family Focus and Natural Habitat Evanston.

DECA is another club at ETHS that is carrying on their work and will be meeting twice per month virtually.

“Although we will not be able to meet in-person, we will still be able to work one-on-one with students along with still be[ing] able to work in smaller groups via the digital meeting options,” club sponsor and career and technical education teacher Jennifer Weber said.

DECAs competition season will not only be impacted this year but was also cut short last spring.

“I see the passion and the drive within the students who compete in DECA,” Weber said. “I know students were heartbroken last year as we were getting ready to get on board the bus for our state competition only to be told about 15 minutes before leaving that the competition was canceled due to COVID-19.”

Senior participant of DECA Ellie Gavelek is both worried and excited to see how the virtual version of DECA will work out this school year.

“I will miss hearing about everyone’s projects and… the competitions because it’s so fun to be away from school and stay in a hotel with all these other students and compete,” Gavelek said. “I’m excited to see what virtual competition will look like and seeing how far I can take my project this year.”

The student activities department and all the club sponsors and leaders are working very hard to provide activities that are both safe and engaging for students in this unprecedented time. 

“It’s great for adults to get around a table and talk, but it’s [students’] high school experience, so it doesn’t matter what I suggest if it doesn’t appeal to what [students] want,” Boyd said. “I really want the students to know that our virtual doors are open, we’re open for suggestions; we still want school to be fun.”

“That’s our passion: making students happy.”