Vincent Y.
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Distance learning has been difficult for most of us and has changed many things about how we learn and interact with our community. As a way to counteract some of the negative consequences to being online, AISB leadership has prioritized Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs), or “passion projects” on Wednesdays. 

CCA Director David Hughes says these “free” Wednesdays are important for students to be able to have fun and learn new things. Over 80% of secondary students have engaged in CCAs this year, whether in the form of a council, a service group, and/or a recreational activity.

But the question is, what have been the most popular CCAs, and what are they like? To find out, we talked to Hughes to get the top 5 most highly attended Wednesday activities. 

Cooking

Slideshow of all creations

Mac&

Cheese

Pancakes

Pizza

The Cooking CCA currently has 31 student participants and is run by Mr. David Starzynski, Ms. Courtney McDonald, and Ms. Danielle McDonald. They started the CCA because they love cooking, and wanted to give an opportunity for students to learn basic skills while trying out a variety of recipes. 

Every weekend before the CCA, the advisors reveal the recipe they will cook the following week so that students can go out to buy the ingredients. Then they cook together (in their own kitchens, via Zoom) for an hour-or-so, and then share pictures of their food on a slideshow (here’s one from their sweet potato & ricotta gnocchi workshop) to show fellow students.

“The cooking workshop has been such a cool experience for both the teachers and students,” says Courtney McDonald. “I’m used to seeing students being creative in music class, but it’s a really nice change to see them thriving and enjoying themselves in the kitchen.”

The Cooking CCA is a unique option because most of the activities offered were related to physical activity or arts. The teachers involved thought it was important to offer an important life skill while allowing students to have fun during a particularly tough year.


Baking

Cheddar Biscuits

Apple Crumble

Home-made Pretzels

The Baking CCA started after teachers Ms. Allison Sands and Ms. Kristina Gagliardi saw so much interest in the Cooking CCA. They both love to bake, and had always done baking as a hobby, but they were never able to teach it because it wasn’t an option in school. They now have 28 students baking with them on a weekly basis.

Every week, Gagliardi and Sands choose a new recipe to try out, and test the recipes beforehand to make a slideshow with helpful tips and tricks so that students won’t face too much trouble. (Here’s an example of a slideshow: Homemade Crackers.) Students are separated into breakout rooms while baking, to share ideas or tips and also ask for help.

The Baking CCA usually runs for an hour each week and students spend the majority of the time baking in their breakout rooms. When the students finish their creations, they share the final results through pictures.

Through the Baking CCA, Gagliardi and Sands say students can learn independence and real-life skills. “These students can bake their whole lives, no matter where they are, or no matter where they live,” explains Sands.


Chess

The Chess CCA has 29 students involved, and is run by Mr. Gabriel Grecescu, who is an international chess master.

To make chess accessible for distance learning, Grecescu uses a user-friendly internet platform, and at the start of each Wednesday, he meets with students over Zoom to learn tips and tricks and discuss what they previously learned. Each week, teams change so students get to play with someone new each time. They play for five rounds, and early finishers are encouraged to watch other people’s games, commenting and helping players in trouble. The CCA runs for an hour each week.

In chess, decision-making skills are very important, because when you’re playing, you must make your own decision to play a move and submit to an outcome. Chess also helps with analysis and quick decision making since each player has a limited amount of time per turn.

“When you make a decision, you find out the answers right away to the decision you’ve made, good or not so good” – Gabriel Grecescu.


3D Design

The 3D Design CCA is run by Mr. Vlad Ionescu, who himself does 3D design for a living. Since most schools don’t offer the subject, Ionescu was excited to create this workshop and introduce 3D design to the 29 students involved.

“3D design is one of those fields where you can be creative and basically make whatever you want on a computer,” says Ionescu.

In the 3D Design CCA, Ionescu teaches different stages of 3D designing, such as 3D modeling, sculpting, and animation. Each session, he shows his students how to go about the process, letting them follow along, and answering any questions the students may have during the process by sharing their screens. Ionescu describes it as a group workshop, where students and himself can interact and help each other. The mini-projects they make can take more than one session (one hour), and students are encouraged to work on their own projects outside the formal workshop. 

Students are able to learn artistic skills and technical skills from 3D Design since the the subject branches out to artist-like activities and programmer-like activities.


GAMEpires

A screenshot of The King’s Guild from boardgamearena.com, courtesy of oneboardfamily.com.

GAMEpires is a CCA focused on online games—which advisor Mr. Marty Lawless says “do not include negative aspects such as killing,” but instead, are “games that puzzle the mind.” There are currently 23 students who meet each week.

Lawless states that recently they have been focusing on a website called boardgamearena.com where board games are digitized and can be played online. Students are offered sign-up sheets where they can create their own breakout rooms to play the games that Lawless allows. What’s really fun is that students are able to organize the games themselves to play with fellow students.

Lawless says the types of games they’re focused on are pressure, luck, or strategy games. “Through these fun games, students are able to socialize, learning how to interact in a respectful manner. This is all part of ATLs in a fun package with no curriculum.”


With the return of full, in-person days next week, we wonder if Wednesday CCAs will continue. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below to start a conversation!

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