By Robin Bosworth
Every Wednesday during seventh period, all TLS students log onto separate Zoom links to attend their chosen weekly activity. TLS limited cross-grade interactions this year so that if one student contracted COVID-19, only students in that specific grade would need to quarantine. Scuttlebutt is the only activity that meets in person as it is made up of only juniors. Other activities include ASL, Yearbook, Leffell Voices and Stock Market, all of which are held over Zoom.
According to junior Jordan Lefkowitz, president of the stock market activity, many extracurriculars have changed drastically over the past year. While Zoom has the potential to limit the efficiency of an activity, that is not always the case.
“I think productivity has for sure decreased as there are people with their cameras off,” Lefkowitz said. “While I do not think our club is necessarily worse because of Zoom, I think it is definitely better for those who choose to participate actively.”
Zoom has the potential to limit conversation or to enhance it since everybody is able to physically view all other participants. Junior Sari Warkol, the layout editor of the student-run magazine, Leffell Voices, believes that the challenges created by being virtual vary tremendously across different activities.
“I think that some people choose activities that require less attention and focus, in which case the period is not productive,” Warkol said.
Because students must choose an activity to fulfill the requirement during the school day, some are less committed to their activity and are therefore less interested in the discussions and meetings. However, according to sophomore Lauren Block, who leads the American Sign Language activity, the fact that activities are mandatory can increase student interest because they require people to step outside of their comfort zones.
“I think the period is fairly productive…there are a lot of options, so if you signed up for ASL you probably want to learn ASL,” Block said. “I think it could be harder to have activities meet outside of school because we are all in high school so people have homework, and to commit to meeting after school to learn a language can be challenging and tiring for a lot of people.”
Although the physical interaction that usually accompanies activities block is lost over Zoom, students are still able to connect with each other. Junior Liat Levine-Salem thought that her peers have been more relaxed over Zoom, which is a benefit as the period is focused on student interest.
“I think that being over Zoom makes it a little less cohesive, but it still works,” Levine-Salem said. “It is productive, but I think it would be more productive if it was in person. We would be able to monitor what people are doing more closely. Zoom creates a more relaxed environment, which is okay too because it is just an activity and not a class.”
However, in some ways, Zoom has increased functionality for certain activities. For instance, Block believes that Zoom has enabled her activity to function even more smoothly, utilizing tools provided by Zoom like breakout rooms.
“It’s obviously not as exciting over Zoom because it is less fun and it is harder to get to know people, so we try to make it interesting by showing videos and creating fun projects,” Block said. “Last year, before COVID-19, we would spend a chunk of time doing work, but we would also get to socialize and become friends with the other people in the activity who were not in our own grades.”
However, as with many other aspects of school this year that are altered due to COVID-19 restrictions, TLS has figured out ways to continue activities block. Through the use of Zoom, students are able to stay connected and engaged during the period, which gives students a break during the day.
“This year, being over Zoom is definitely a different feel,” Warkol said. “It can be annoying and hard because you don’t get the connections between both the students and the teacher. However, it is not that different because you are still interacting with others.”