Navigating Virtual Clubs in a Pandemic

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, afternoons following school that were typically filled with extracurricular activities like sports or club meetings are now replaced by virtual calls through GoogleMeet.

Many of the Wheatley School’s clubs were able to adjust to the restrictions enacted to protect us from the virus easily with the switch to online meetings, while others that relied on in-person meetings were heavily impacted. The biggest impact was on the students who rely on clubs to support their resumes and college applications, hoping to attain leadership positions to display the variety of their abilities to higher level institutions. With so many opportunities for extracurricular activities already gone, this additional deficit dealt another blow to prospective college applicants’ ease in showcasing their talent. However, despite the setbacks, students and advisors have adapted to the changes and created virtual versions of their club meetings and events.

The Wildcat newspaper club has been meeting weekly through GoogleMeets to discuss article ideas, edit and write pieces, and talk about the news. We were sad to let the various snacks that would often accompany our meetings go, but were at least still able to fill our meetings with intriguing discussions on issues in our world and community today. Additionally, we attended our annual trip to the Quill Awards, albeit virtually, and took home a few awards while also engaging in insightful discussions about the importance of school newspapers and the difficulty in producing them during a pandemic.

As the Editor-in-Chief of Vintage, our school’s writing club that releases an annual literary and art magazine under the same title, I have experienced the difficulty in garnering the same enthusiasm for the club as we could when in-person. Although this year, a majority of our meetings consist of answering prompts together and playing games as we always have, we also organized monthly virtual workshops to allow participants a deeper understanding into specific genres or topics related to writing. Fortunately, we have been able to end the year with an in-person magazine launch at our school, the Coffeeless Coffee House.

Charlotte Iannone singing at the Vintage Coffee House

Book Club meets every week to discuss books, play games, and watch movies in a relaxing atmosphere.  While we weren’t able to meet in person, we were successful in a virtual environment.  Our books were on Sora, instead of being physical copies – this year, we discussed Sanctuary, Lovely War, and Klara and the Sun.  We also interviewed Paola Mendoza, one of the authors of Sanctuary.  We enjoyed watching Pride and Prejudice on Swank and playing games over Google Meets.  That said, we’re excited to be back in-person next year!

To clubs that heavily depend on meeting in person, this change has been extensive. Wheatley Theater Company (WTC), our school’s drama club, has been known for its spectacular presentations of plays and musicals at Wheatley’s very own auditorium. The performances encompass an important part of our school as a way to bring students and the larger community together to enjoy the hard work club members put into their shows. Additionally, buying tickets at a show has been a primary form of gaining Showdown points. All this has become obsolete because of safety regulations. 

However, they still managed to put up a show virtually. Emma Melnikov, a member of this club, shared: “WTC did a combination of online improv exercises and preparing for a virtual performance with character work and monologue performances. It was actually still pretty fun even though it was all on Zoom, but obviously the show wasn’t everything the seniors had hoped their senior show would be. The show itself was all pre-recorded scenes that Ms. Calio (our director) worked on with all of us individually and then edited for the final product. We’re all proud of it!”

One of the clubs most affected by the pandemic was the Intercultural Unity Club (ICU). Every year, the club shares the wonders of a variety of cultures on the day before students leave for winter break with performances in our auditorium through an event called the ICU Luncheon. Jasmine Singh, ICU’s Vice President, shared the following regarding the club, “Although some may disagree, I believe the ICU Luncheon is one of the most important days of the school year. Not only do we celebrate culture, but we come together as the diverse school that we are. We learn about our heritage, eat delicious food from different origins, and enjoy cultural performances from all around the world. This is a time where we just drop the books, pens, or calculators, and start paying attention to the world outside.” 

Despite this event’s significance, it was unable to be held in person this year. Still, the club persevered and produced an incredible virtual version of the event consisting of pre-recorded performances.

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