With the 2020-2021 school year well on its way, the question of how after school clubs will meet during the Coronavirus pandemic had to be tackled head on, given that around 95% of the student body has chosen fully remote learning. During this time of a normal school year (in a pre-COVID world), students at Bronx Science normally prepare to attend the annual Club Fair in person to join clubs in which they are interested, and to build connections and friendships with their classmates. However, while the Coronavirus pandemic may have changed how students will be meeting and running their clubs this year, as usual, Bronx Science has powered through and found a way around our daunting situation.
Not only are clubs now meeting in a weekly basis via Zoom or Google Meets, but this year’s Club Fair was also held, albeit remotely. Students were able to interact with one another virtually, and they were given the closest simulation to an in-school experience as possible. This year’s Club Fair was hosted on a website called Remo, where there were two virtual buildings. Clubs were assigned certain tables on certain floors based on the size of their club. The maximum seating capacity per table was around six students, and at these tables, students could chat with their cameras and microphones on or choose to use their table’s chats. Students attending virtually were free to roam around the tables, floors, and buildings to simulate to simulate an authentic Club Fair experience.
Most clubs have already begun to host their weekly video meetings, and club board members have been setting their expectations for how their clubs will run throughout this 2020-201 unprecedented school year. All clubs are using either Zoom or Google Meets to host their weekly meetings for students to interact with one another. The setting of the club meetings are very similar to those of the virtual classroom meetings that Bronx Science students have with their teachers every day; however, as the club meetings are run by students (with faculty advisors in attendance), the club presidents run their meetings according to their taste. They may create interactive slides, use Jamboards, show videos, or play virtual games in order to increase engagement with their club members. With the switch to a new format of remote club meetings via video, the new virtual format has presented both advantages and challenges for each club’s leadership and members alike.
Certain clubs that are used to feeding off of in-person interaction are facing the biggest challenges. NASHA of Culture is one of Bronx Science’s largest clubs in terms of membership, and it revolves around social interactions with one another. During a traditional school year, they prepare to dance for school events such as Homecoming and their end-of-the-year show, as well as play games and watch movies together; these are major components that keep their club together. “NASHA is a very collaborative, interactive club in which holding physical meetings is important in order to adequately prepare for the NASHA Show and to maintain our close-knit community,” said President Thahiya Hassan ’21. “So it has been challenging to adapt to the new virtual format.”
Even clubs that are not as performance-based as NASHA still have a learning curve in adapting to the new all virtual format of club meetings. “The biggest challenge so far has been maintaining a sense of community within our club in a virtual setting. We have a lot of interesting ideas regarding the ways in which we can maintain our community this year in a virtual format,” said Modern Music Appreciation Club Co-President Ryan Goldsmith ’22.
In terms of recruiting new members and meeting availability during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic and remote schooling, different Club Presidents have different outlooks on how many people they expect to join their virtual clubs. Some Club Presidents believe that the Coronavirus pandemic may have made it more convenient to host and to join meetings, given that 95% of students are working from home and in front of their computers for their academic classes.
“I believe that finding new members will be more convenient this year. PSAL sports teams are cancelled and in-person extracurricular activities are also cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic, so I assume that many more students, especially underclassmen, will be keeping their eyes open for virtual clubs to join,” said Psych and Neuro Co-President, Victoria Diaz ’22.
However, this is not the case for all clubs, and many Club Presidents are worried about recruitment. Angel Prabakar ’22, President of the Bioethics Club, has said that “the pandemic has made marketing my club extremely difficult, as students aren’t exposed to in person campaigns or posters and can no longer impulsively join in on a club meeting in person to decide whether or not they want to be in that club. We are running our virtual meetings online, but campaigning has been hard as not everyone is consistently watching Wolverine TV or has their own social media accounts.” Many club leaders also believe that recruiting and getting people to join will be much more difficult this year due to the inability to foster in-person connections in a physical classroom setting.
Regardless, we must deal with the hand that we are dealt, and our club leaders and the League of Presidents are working especially hard this year in order to ensure that virtual extracurricular activities remain as engaging as possible, despite the Coronavirus pandemic.
“NASHA is a very collaborative, interactive club in which holding physical meetings is important in order to adequately prepare for the NASHA Show and to maintain our close-knit community,” said President Thahiya Hassan ’21. “So it has been challenging to adapt to the new virtual format.”