As West Ranch students and staff alike settle into the flow of distance learning, extracurriculars such as clubs, performing arts and the student government have class-specific difficulties to overcome. For these groups, many of which depend heavily on interpersonal communication and practice, it has become an unprecedented period from which to begin another year.
While many groups must work just to communicate with their large class, ASB has the task of organizing school-wide events for everyone participating in remote learning. They have to find activities that appeal to the student body while promoting school spirit.
ASB president Nicole Augusta comments, “Approaching distance learning is extremely difficult, but we have continued to plan digital activities with the goal of connecting the student body sitting prominently in our minds.” So far there have been successful Kahoot events held during the previous advisory periods as well as virtual spirit weeks.
“When ASB creates spirit days or school activities, we begin with brainstorming. Once we narrow down our ideas, we choose the best of the best and begin the planning process,” Sophomore Class President Adhitya Ram explains.
He elaborates that they use Instagram as a platform for publicizing the events, and the “best way to connect with ASB is through [their] account @westranchasb.”
Augusta adds, “Our social media commissioners have been busy creating posts to publicize our spirit days and activities, and this has been our most reliable source of publicity these past few months.” The account posts notifications for every activity and general school-related news that may be relevant to students.
The student-led council works hard to plan and fulfill fun interactions for the school. “As of now, the only event that ASB cannot have is the homecoming dance,” replied Ram when asked of changes in the semester’s scheduled events, “Other than that, we are still trying to shift some of the activities we do at school to be remote.”
The performing arts departments are all close-contact extracurriculars that are currently limited due to the virus. Theatre has indefinitely postponed talks of future productions as of now, but will resume further discussion when returning to school becomes a feasible idea.
“For me, theater is meant to engage young actors in a world where they can freely express themselves. It’s challenging to do that over a screen. I also miss seeing my friends and classmates. Seeing them gives theater the liveliness and energy that it needs,” shared junior Leah Pastorio.
Since there is no production currently in the making and thus no rehearsals, the class is making the best out of this progression to bond with each other. In terms of classwork, Pastorio explained that they have been assigned “fun filming projects to do” whilst chatting.
Band and Orchestra
Larger groups on campus like band and orchestra are adapting to function online, but cannot continue as they did pre-quarantine. Around this time of year, the marching band would be ready to begin competition season having played at a few football games. Orchestra and the other bands would have had a fall concert coming up.
Mr. Marshall, the music director, overcomes the virtual barrier using unconventional routines. “Typically we begin with warm-ups and then progress into either a sight-reading focus or music theory focus. After that, we then rehearse music that we are preparing for a virtual concert,” he explains, “It is so different not being together, but we are making the best out of the situation. We are currently in the process of producing a virtual concert of one piece per band/orchestra.” He hopes this can be accomplished by mid-October.
“The hardest part is not being able to meet in person,” junior Brandon Chung comments. He mentions that “playing in a live ensemble is very different [from] playing [in] recordings” and that it is “harder to match tone and timing.”
The class makes frequent use of online practice tools for music and recordings along with their online Zoom classes. The students can learn music theory and music history as well as practice skills such as sight-reading. They also play the assigned pieces to perfect their sound in preparation for the virtual concert.
Musical groups of this capacity are hard to sync and control even in person. Over Zoom, the overlapping audio and lagging internet connection only serve to exacerbate the problems. Mr. Marshall has tried the obvious by having everyone unmute and play, but says it was a disaster. Instead, the students “submit videos or play in a small group setting” while he broadcasts examples over Zoom.
Remote learning is especially difficult for his students as “[so] much of what [they] do in ‘regular’ class is based upon immediate feedback for both the entire group and individuals. In this model, it is very difficult to provide that feedback.”
Mr. Marshall makes sure to take into account his students’ well-being, stating that “most don’t want to volunteer, so I’ll have students submit videos or play in a small group setting instead (they are more comfortable there). It is a real challenge, but we’re making it work.”
Choir is another organization that is adjusting to distance learning. With many of these performing arts, it can be difficult to transition into an online platform when much of the learning and practices are hands-on.
Manaal Hasan, a junior in choir, commented on the challenges of the situation. “I think the most difficult part of online learning with choir is the new technology and programs we are using,” she states, “it’ll be difficult to get everyone on the same page musicality wise.”
However, even with the hurdles of online learning, choir students can use programs such as Soundtrap, Kami and Zoom in class. They also perform every Friday with the district over Twitch, allowing them to still experience the feeling of live performances.
While musical organizations are developing new ways to organize practices and performances, WRTV is yet another program that has had to adapt to the limitations of Distance Learning. After starting the year off with a weekly broadcast, the students are now able to broadcast live daily from the comfort of their own homes to deliver news to the student body.
WRTV teacher Mrs. Overdevest spoke on this topic. “The Internet is the hardest challenge we’re running into as far as trying to get the quality we’re used to from the home,” she explained. “And for me, my biggest challenge obviously, as a teacher, is just communication.”
The students in WRTV make use of a variety of platforms to communicate with each other and with their teacher. These include Discord, Zoom and OBS, an application the students use as a tricaster.
“Instead of kids working on the show and making graphics, they’re in breakout rooms,” Mrs. Overdevest stressed. “During the entire period, I’ve got one room that’s doing today’s show, the live show, and then I’ve got like ten or eight different rooms working with partners on what stories they’re going to create for the upcoming shows.”
However, the distance learning system has allowed the students of WRTV to persevere through the process and solve issues as they come up. Mrs. Overdevest told The Paw Print, “Everyone’s having to learn to think outside the box.” As WRTV trouble-shoots and becomes more familiar with the online platform, Mrs. Overdevest expressed that “the problem-solving skills that you wouldn’t have had inside the classroom, I think, is the main number one positive in this.”
Many performing arts and specialty electives are working in an unfamiliar environment, but despite the hurdles, they are pushing through the process and adapting during this trying time. The students in the different classes are starting to find new ways to express themselves, whether that be through music, acting, film or leading others.
While making the best of the situation, these hard-working students and teachers are gaining new skills and are continuing to pursue their passions.