Artwork by sophomore Lilah Shorey. (Photo courtesy of Andy Cunningham)

How electives adapted to online learning

While electives have made adjustments due to remote learning, some were affected more than others. 

Music, P.E. and art rely on interactions and on-campus resources.

“Band class really can’t function through distance learning,” band director Bob Ratcliff said. “It’s like trying to play sports through distance.”

Ratcliff said he gave students assignments to keep them playing their instruments. All members of Ratcliff’s bands (high school concert and jazz bands and fifth grade concert band) submitted recordings of their parts on given songs. Ratcliff then compiles the parts using GarageBand, a software program, to form completed pieces.

“I sent individual files to my friend who has a recording studio, and we edited and mastered them to create completed pieces,” Ratcliff said. “In the end, it sounds like a complete concert band, even though nobody has technically played with anybody else.”

The concert band performs “The Legend of Alhambra.” Concert band students submitted recordings that were compiled by band director Bob Ratcliff and a friend. (Audio courtesy of Ratcliff)

During remote learning, students focused on some of the technical aspects of playing, such as scales, chords and rhythm patterns, according to Ratcliff.

Sophomore Craig Bolman said the adjustment went well.

“I know that Mr. Ratcliff and (middle school jazz and concert band director Kurt) Pearsall put in a lot of work to make this happen,” Bolman said.

Bolman said some of the recording work — jazz band solos in particular — were the most challenging part.

“When I practiced, I was happy with my playing, but as soon as I tried to record, it immediately got harder,” he said.

The jazz band’s performance of “Jo Jo Calypso.” Jazz band students submitted recordings that were compiled by Ratcliff and a friend. (Audio courtesy of Ratcliff)

Bolman added that recording scales was easy, however.

“It was very simple to just turn on a metronome, learn the scale and record it. Since the scales are not going into any combined recordings, there’s not much to worry about.”

Orchestra and choir director Felecia Keys agreed that not seeing students face-to-face was difficult.

“Remote learning doesn’t allow for immediate feedback,” Keys said. “Keeping students motivated was a challenge.”

Keys required orchestra students to turn in practice logs. She also assigned them to play a solo piece, which they emailed to Keys, and to critique live performances.

One of the biggest challenges for Keys was a video the choir recorded for the “We are Country Day” event, held over Zoom on May 16. Choir members submitted recordings that were compiled into a video that was played during the event.

The choir’s performance of the song “Memories.” Choir students submitted recordings that were compiled by Ratcliff and a friend. The resulting song was used during the “We are Country Day” event. (Audio courtesy of Ratcliff)

While orchestra and band members took their instruments home, art teacher Andy Cunningham said supplies were an immediate issue.

“The first thing I did was collect paper, sketchbooks, pencils, paint, brushes, canvases and sidewalk chalk and brought them to my studio to clean,” he said. “I told students that if they needed supplies, they could arrange a time to pick up things.”

Artwork by junior Erin Wilson. (Photo courtesy of Cunningham)

Cunningham said sending work through email and Google Drive wasn’t the best way for him to give feedback on projects that were works-in-progress, but the process improved.

“Students showing me their work at the beginning of class via Zoom was a nice way to connect with them, but not all students liked to show their unfinished work to a crowd,” he said.

Cunningham also experienced smaller problems, such as explaining a visual problem through Zoom.

Cunningham added that high school students painted and created art regularly, primarily for personally directed projects.

Sophomore Jesus Aispuro said the art elective ran well.

“The hardest part was focusing on art,” Aispuro said. “I felt like I was (making) fewer pieces than if I were actually at school because I was working on other stuff from other classes.”

Aispuro said his art projects included stenciling and featuring spray paint in his work.

“(I was learning) how to create more complex stencils with the help of Mr. Cunningham,” he said.

Aispuro mentioned that Cunningham gave prompts when students were unsure of what to do.

Artwork by senior Jewel Turner. (Photo courtesy of Cunningham)

P.E. teacher Michelle Myers assigned two to three workouts a week, often based on student choice. Students initially submitted videos of their workout by email, but Myers later implemented a shared Google Drive folder for each student.

The Google Drive folder, Myers said, was challenging in the beginning because it took time for students to learn to upload their videos.

As for the workouts, Myers assigned specific activities beginning in April so students would have greater exposure to different exercises.

In mid-April, P.E. classes were held over Zoom with Team Hargett, consisting of Myers’ trainer, Steve Hargett, and his brother and wife. Myers said Hargett’s workouts focused on muscle activation. Students worked on core exercises, cardio, athletic performance, strength and Pilates, according to Myers.

From late April through much of May, Myers had students work on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) exercises of their choice. HIIT alternates between short periods of intense exercise and recovery periods.

Recently, students chose past exercises they enjoyed.

Throughout remote learning, students kept track of their heart rates on a spreadsheet, according to Myers. They checked heart rates before, during and after exercising.

“The students made an amazing transition (to online P.E.),” Myers said. “Even the international students who went back home were able to continue their classwork.”

The Octagon online and print editions functioned almost normally, according to adviser Paul Bauman.

“We basically had the same online routine because stories are written, edited and posted at home anyway,” Bauman said. “The last two print issues of the year were a bit more complicated.”

Bauman said there were pros and cons about working remotely during paste-up, the week when the staff normally designs the upcoming print issue in Room 9 after school.

“In a way, it helped to do it remotely, because everyone was at home and could concentrate better,” Bauman said. “On the other hand, one of the best things about paste-up week is the camaraderie. It was a shame to miss that.”

The Octagon’s biggest challenge, Bauman said, was doing interviews because it could be more difficult to set them up with teachers and administrators over email.

Once the class began meeting after spring break, sessions were run essentially the same as if they were in person, he said. The main difference was that the class met once a week instead of two or three times.

The Medallion met its deadline of March 27, two weeks after the school closure. The publisher extended the deadline by 10 days due to the closure, according to adviser Liz Leavy.

“It required a huge effort on the part of several key staff members,” Leavy said.

Leavy said the Medallion normally is busy during the weeks before their deadline, meeting in groups after school and on weekends. This was made more difficult by the stay-at-home order.

Leavy mentioned how helpful it was to have her son — junior Nate Leavy, a copy editor — with her.

“The two of us were able to proofread the whole thing as the other senior staff finished content and made revisions,” Liz Leavy said.

Some students likely put in more hours than normal, she added.

“I’m really proud of the book, and especially proud of my staff,” she said.

By Ethan Monasa