ZOOMing Back Into Clubs

Clubs Begin to Meet Remotely

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Photo credit: Arjun Kalra

Parker’s MOCHA (Men of Color Heritage Affinity) group meets via Zoom.

Hundreds of profile pics looked through a Google Doc on Monday, September 21. It was the involvement fair, which was on computers this year instead of at school, like many other events that have been cancelled due to COVID-19. Instead of tables, club, affinity group, and organization heads opened up Zoom rooms, and students were able to visit different clubs without leaving their chair. 

Upper School Dean of Student Life Joe Bruno hosted the involvement fair over Zoom. Students received a Google Doc with club and affinity group names and a corresponding Zoom link. Students were able to visit various groups within the 45 minute fair and sign up for clubs and affinity groups. 

For Asian Alliance chair and junior Aidan Young, this is his second Club Fair where he has run a booth. “Obviously this year’s Club Fair looked different than the ones in years past,” Young said. “But I think the good work we started with Zoom starting last spring made us successful with hosting virtual meetings this year.”

Many clubs have begun to meet remotely amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to remote learning. Clubs including Model UN, Scholastic Bowl, and Poetry Club have had to adapt to meeting on Zoom. 

Some clubs hosted meetings remotely in the spring, such as Model UN. They are continuing to meet this fall with seven symposia scheduled on weekday afternoons. “Last year I was really disappointed after the international trip was canceled and I wasn’t very optimistic about doing Model UN over Zoom for my senior year,” senior Carter Wagner said. “However, after my first two virtual symposia I can honestly say that I love the pivot that the program has made.”

Model UN, which requires debating world issues while representing a country and working with other delegates, will follow the same format for symposiums while on Zoom. Students use the “raise hand” function in Zoom to replicate raising a placard, and unmute to speak rather than going up to a podium. For unmoderated caucuses, where delegates usually can walk around to talk to other delegates, the captains have been using breakout rooms. 

“We’re not gonna be in school at all so this is going to be a great way to meet kids from all sorts of different grades, and to gain insight, and it’ll still really improve public speaking skills even on Zoom,” Senior and Model UN Captain Alex Schapiro said. 

 The Poetry Club is holding meetings on Zoom. Prior to remote learning, Poetry Club met once a week. During the spring remote learning period, Poetry Club did not meet but the meetings have returned this fall.

Scholastic Bowl finished their season last year before on-campus learning ended. Members are meeting on Zoom to practice, where they can “buzz” in to answer a question by writing in the chat, or they can send in their answer to Scholastic Bowl Coach and Upper School Math Teacher Ethan Levine. The first meeting was on September 18. “I’m happy with how the introductory meeting went,” Levine said. “We saw a lot of familiar faces and plenty of new ones and I’m hopeful that a lot of the newcomers will find it enjoyable and stick with it.”

For Scholastic Bowl, there was no doubt of whether to continue meetings this school year. “It would have just been too sad to take the time off,” Levine said. “I just thought as long as there was some opportunity to keep it going, we might as well try.”

Levine and Schapiro think that there will be increased turnout for clubs that usually have weekend events or travel. Levine hopes that having virtual competitions will encourage more students to go to weekend competitions, since there will be no long bus rides. Model UN delegates, who have the opportunity to sign up for an international trip each spring, can participate in conferences around the world on Zoom. “What’s nice this year is that you can go to the conference every weekend, and the conference can be hosted in Italy one week, then Greece or Japan,” Schapiro said.

Being at home on Zoom brings new changes, as well as benefits. “I hope that being in our own environments will make people more comfortable and improve their creative process,” junior and Poetry Club head Ava Utigard said. 

“I think it’s important for students to have an outlet to connect outside of the classroom, and I think clubs, organizations and affinity groups, really lend to the educational experience,” Bruno said. “I think Parker students are really rising to the occasion and showing their best selves and trying to make different things work.”