When Jefferson County Public Schools shifted to online learning earlier this year, Golden High School teacher and student council advisor Rachel Kastelein admits she had “no idea” how to engage …
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When Jefferson County Public Schools shifted to online learning earlier this year, Golden High School teacher and student council advisor Rachel Kastelein admits she had “no idea” how to engage the council’s student leaders remotely.
So she did what many people would and turned to Google. The search engine brought her to #CareNotCOVID, an online movement to encourage kids and young adults to think about ways to help their community, and particularly the vulnerable and isolated elderly population, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The student council kids took to that idea and wrote letters to a resident across town at the Golden Pond Retirement Community whose 98th birthday party had to be canceled due to the pandemic.
“The notes the students wrote were so amazing and I was just like `what else can we do with this,’” said Kastelein. “And then I thought about Zoom (a video conferencing platform that has become popular during the pandemic) and all the funny videos involving it and I thought `how neat would it be if we each said some meaningful words for the residents over Zoom?”
But when Kastelein brought that idea to council leaders Devyn Schaefer and Kendall Wetch, Schaefer immediately thought of a trend on the popular video platform TikTok. That trend involved members of sports teams that were isolated from one another due to COVID-19 kicking or throwing a ball offscreen to another player who then catches” it before passing it to the next player.
“I thought could we do something like that?” Schaefer said.
After some brainstorming, Schaefer and Wetch came up with the idea of having the council members write positive words about the residents of Golden Pond on pieces of paper and then film themselves holding up holding up those pieces of paper before crinkling it up and “throwing” it to another classmate off screen like in the sports video.
That classmate would then film themselves “catching” the crinkled piece of paper, unfolding it and showing a word they had written before “passing” it to the next student.
Kastelein said she was excited by the idea — though she admits to being unaware of the TikTok trend.
“I was like `OK, now we are getting out of what people my age understand,” Kastelein said.
So she let the students run with it with Schaefer and Welch taking charge of telling the rest of the council how to fill their segment of the video, which they then edited together.
“Getting everyone to throw the paper so that it would sync together definitely took a few test runs,” said Wetch. “But it definitely turned out really well.”
The finished video was then sent to Golden Pond, where staff have been showing it to residents at mealtimes. Kastelein said the council has since received a lot of positive feedback about the video, not only from residents but also from other members of the Golden community after it was posted to YouTube and shown on CBS 4 news.
The students have since turned their attention to their next effort: organizing a school-wide sprit week event in which students will be encouraged to dress up according to a different them and send in photos.
The spirit week, which began on April 27, will conclude with students sending in photos of themselves dressed in red in honor of first responders.
Kastelein said it has been exciting to see how her council students have worked together to continue to lead and do positive things for the community while away from school.
“It’s been cool to see them realize they aren’t necessarily helpless in this situation,” she said. “Because yes, we are stuck at home but there are still things you can do as a student to help their community from behind a screen. I think that’s been the big change in thinking for them.”
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