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World Mag > WM Summer 2020 Resilient > Stronger than a Pandemic

Stronger than a Pandemic

Building community resilience in distance learning

When AISB announced its closure due to coronavirus in March, everyone awkwardly stumbled upon Zoom, not knowing what exactly to expect. Although there was excitement about taking classes while in a large group face call, distance learning created lots of uncertainties. Most on-campus events and initiatives were canceled, and many worried that they would lose the sense of connection with the school community.

However, students transformed these concerns into the anticipation of new opportunities. One by one, volunteers stepped up to lead activities like beat-making, creative arts, and workout during flex time (MYP free block). A digital version of the Friday Lunch Lounge was launched, where people could post photos and videos of their creations and talents. Service-learning groups were also back in session to discuss how to best advocate their cause and provide aid digitally.

One of the biggest successes was AISB’s first Human Rights Week, delivered online by Amnesty International. After several preparatory sessions, they swapped physical workshops with Zoom discussions, podcasts, articles, and an informative website that combined everything together. “I think that the main advantage of organizing an event over zoom is that it is easier to raise awareness and get people interested,” explains Mara T., the student leader of Amnesty International. “Distance learning has taught us that service is not about grand or extravagant gestures, but small and meaningful actions such as a presentation about women’s rights or a podcast about people’s experience with freedom of speech during communist Romania.”

This courageous first step created a ripple effect. Many inspired student groups were beginning similar digital projects of their own, taking a more positive approach to distance learning. Another example of a successful initiative is Earth Week, organized by AISB members who share care for the environment. Taking one step further, the team was able to host local environmental NGO representatives and climate activists in their lunchtime Zoom discussions.

Gabrielle W., a Grade 9 student, was one of the student leaders to organize Earth Week during distance learning. “After the coronavirus hit, most of us assumed the event would be canceled and the group began to dissipate a bit,” she says. “This eventually worked in our favor, however, because a greater variety of people joined our cause. [...] Knowing that there are other individuals out there who care enough to take the time of day provides a tremendous sense of community.”

Other service groups have been staying in touch with their Romanian counterparts to provide necessities and aid during the national lockdown. Service Learning Council Leader Andrei V. explains, “Groups are working on collecting games for the children of Fundatia Inocenti, several boxes of food were delivered to a HIV+ group, and small groups of students have been cleaning up green areas around their houses, within the government regulations.” The students’ families

Some students, with the help of their families, have also supported a small private orphanage to ensure they had enough food while in quarantine. “The overall feedback that we received from the community is that they were pleased to be engaged in such activities, and the “organizers” thought it went better than it would’ve if they were to organize it on campus,” Andrei mentions. Besides, service wasn’t the only factor that bonded students in different grade  levels over the shared passions and interests. The Current Affairs Discussion Group, organized by English teacher Ian Edwards, allows anyone from Grade 9 and 10 to share their opinions about diverse world events and make new connections.

“The meetings have been incredibly engaging so far,” says Ingrid Z., who took part in the group discussions. “We delved into relevant issues such as the prioritization of the economy over public health, lockdown and quarantine measures, while also dedicating time to philosophical topics like how to define art.”

Gabrielle, also involved in the discussion group, underlines why showing resilience through such activities is so crucial at this time. “Belonging is important both within our AISB community, Bucharest, Romania, and the global community.” She continues, “The ability to show that we are still able to band together and share a passion for a worthy cause is deeply meaningful.”

Distance learning has been a new experience for everyone, and it is normal to feel alienated at times. Nonetheless, AISB students were given the privilege to continue their educational curriculum online and connect with various people across grade levels. “During quarantine and lockdowns, it is crucial for those involved to know that they are not alone.

That despite the situation, we are a community that supports each other,” comments Andrei. “It’s important to give back to the community – at all times – and now it’s more needed than ever.”

Flora P.

Journalism Student




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