Inspired by her aunt, junior Naomi Cohen paints a wall in her room. (Photo courtesy of Cohen)

Students write books, paint walls, rediscover hobbies during free time in quarantine

Since SCDS went online after March 13 due to the spread of COVID-19, students have found ways to entertain themselves at home. 

In a March 23 Octagon poll of 68 students, 79.4% said they now have more free time, which they fill with activities such as watching movies or TV shows, reading, working out and playing video games.

Sophomore Sanjana Anand said she loves watching “The Great British Baking Show.”

“I started watching when online school started, and I’m already a few seasons in,” Anand said. “I usually watch for 30 minutes every day, depending on my schedule.”

Sophomore Dylan Margolis decided to rewatch “The Office.”

“I usually watch two episodes a day,” Margolis said. “I also watch about four movies a week, and right now I’ve been watching a lot of Tarantino films.”

Sophomore Arjin Claire, meanwhile, reads for an hour on most days.

“I read any book I find, or if my sister and parents recommend a book, I’ll read that,” Claire said. “I recently finished reading the ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series, which I really liked.”

Sophomore Ethan Monasa is taking it one step further by writing his own books.

Monasa, who has been writing since the first grade, has self-published four books. They are part of a fantasy series in which the protagonist is thrown into an adventure and completes a task with the help of new friends he makes along the way, according to Monasa.

“I also published a fifth book onto Amazon, which I quickly regretted and took down,” Monasa said. “I regretted it because one day I want to be a traditionally published author, like on something like Scholastic, and publishing companies will push harder for debut authors. So it’s advantageous for me to not put myself out there in stupid ways.  

“My grandmother’s friend is a self-published author, and she’s been reading that book and editing chapter by chapter.”

The fifth book has a similar story to his first series. However, Monasa said it’s original and not as inspired by “The Lord of the Rings” series.

“I’m also planning a new book right now, so I’m in the early phases of a new project,” Monasa said. “Right now I’m focusing on building the setting for the book; I haven’t planned out the plot yet.”

Monasa said he tries to work on his book for at least 30-60 minutes per day, depending on how much schoolwork he has.

Despite the shelter-in-place order, students aren’t letting that stop them from staying active.

Pre-quarantine, junior Allie Bogetich usually spent seven hours a week at the gym, so she has had to find new ways to complete her usual exercise routine.

“For cardio, I’ve been utilizing the river trail, running stairs and playing (the video game) Just Dance for extended periods of time,” Bogetich said. “I’m also into weight training; I have some dumbbells and a set of resistance bands, so I try to satisfy my lifting needs that way.

“Since the quarantine began, I have discovered bodyweight exercises which have helped me build up more strength than I ever could have anticipated, so I will bring those with me post-quarantine. Also, pre-quarantine, I would go to Edge Studios for power yoga, and now they are live-streaming their classes, so I’ve been trying my best to keep up with that as well.”

Senior Garrett Shonkwiler does pushups or planks every morning.

“I also like to go on regular runs through my neighborhood,” Shonkwiler said. “I’ve also taken up biking. My ultimate goal is to be able to bike from where I live in El Dorado Hills to school (about 20 miles).”

Students also fill their free time by playing video games. Junior Elise Sommerhaug said her favorites include Overwatch, Titanfall 2, Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and Sims 4.

“Video games are fun because they’re complex and take time to fully understand, and there’s always something to improve,” Sommerhaug said. “I also get to connect with a bunch of my school friends and friends outside of school that I play with.”

Sophomore Craig Bolman added that video games are a way to take a break from schoolwork. His favorite games include Destiny 2 and DOOM.

“It’s nice to do something that doesn’t require as much thought after I’ve been doing schoolwork all day,” Bolman said.

Some students have taken up new hobbies or restarted old ones. Shonkwiler decided to learn as many species in Northern California as he could.

“The day after school got canceled I was thinking I need to find a new hobby, otherwise I’d get bored,” Shonkwiler said. “Right then I spotted a book my parents had given me when I was little after I said I wanted to become a birdwatcher. I enjoy hiking, so my hikes would become much more interesting if I could identify the plants and animals I saw.”

After discovering this book senior Garrett Shonkwiler’s parents had given to him as a child, he became determined to learn as many Northern California species as possible. (Photo courtesy of Shonkwiler)

Junior Naomi Cohen is bringing nature inside by painting a wall in her room with flowers.

“When I rearranged my room, it left one wall open, which looked really blank, so I decided to paint it,” Cohen said. “I was inspired by my aunt, who has a room in her house where she has people add paintings to the wall, and she was actually the person who convinced my parents to let me do it.”

With a black-and-white checkered background, the design will feature yellow flowers, according to Cohen.

Junior Olivia Chilelli has continued learning to sew, which she started about 1 ½ years ago.

“A family friend would take me to her house like once a month, and we’d make small projects like potholders,” Chilelli said. “Unfortunately, she passed away in February, but she gave me one of her machines before she passed. When she died, I felt compelled to keep sewing, so I’m doing a few more small projects over the break.”

She said she’s working on a large, stuffed “Worm on a String,” but in the future, she wants to make clothing. Fabric is hard to find due to the quarantine.

“There’s a lot of really great online sources for people who want to sew but don’t have a mentor to teach them,” Chilelli said.

Similarly, sophomore Zola Grey embroidered a pair of pants.

“I learned in practically one day because my sister (freshman Jada Grey) already knew how to do it,” Grey said. “I put the words ‘half hell’ on the back of a pair of jeans. I also had put a fire, but ended up taking it out because I didn’t like it.”

During the quarantine, sophomore Zola Grey started learning to sew, embroidering the words “half hell” onto this pair of jeans. (Photo courtesy of Grey)

However, staying home isn’t ideal for most students. In the same Octagon poll, 67.6% said they prefer going to school.

Bolman said he would rather go to school because it’s hard to stay motivated.

“Working from home doesn’t really feel like school, but it still affects our grades,” he said. “It’s all the boring stuff about school without any of the benefits to balance it out.”

Sophomore Kali Wells, on the other hand, likes staying home.

“Staying at home is more comfortable than going to school,” Wells said. “I can do whatever I want, whenever I want.”

If school remains online for the rest of the school year, seniors such as Larkin Barnard-Bahn will miss out on many “last rites of passage,” she said.

“This is my last semester of high school — if school doesn’t resume, there are people in my class I’ll never see again,” Barnard-Bahn said. “Senior prom, graduation, senior sunset — all of these last rites of passage that we’ve been looking forward to may never happen.”

Senior Maddie Woo felt the same way about missing her last three months of high school.

“I do feel sad because I’m missing out on a lot of key senior things,” Woo said. “Instead of a senior ditch day, we get a senior ditch the rest of the school year.”