If you’re a member of the St Peters community, or indeed any school community, you’ll be aware of the At Home Learning phase of the COVID-19 social distancing response. Over the last few months, school-life has been very different for all students, nation-wide. Attending daily classes from home changes the way students learn, but it also changes the way a school operates. At St Peters, one of the most notable operational changes was the pause to our numerous co and extra-curricular activities. 

Before COVID-19, the College had many extra activities on offer—from before and after school sport, to music, robotics and a host of clubs and socially-conscious initiatives. Taking part in co and extra-curricular activities, at St Peters, is just as important as day-to-day learning. As a College, we believe that it is these activities that allow students to develop important life skills and build relationships with one another outside the classroom. So, what happens when all that stops? 

Since the new COVID norm meant learning from home, it made sense to adapt and embrace change on all levels. Thanks to the very innovative staff we have at the College, the idea of Zoom Extra-Curricular Activities was floated—why should our students miss out on such an important element of College life when we have to technology available to ensure certain programs are continued. While a little different, the St Peters Zoom Extra-Curricular Activities initiative proved to be very popular with staff and students of all age-groups. Last week, as the activities were coming to an official end, we took the time to find out more from Mrs Nicole Maynard, who works in the Academic Hub.

Mrs Maynard signed up to lead a Zoom Extra-Curricular Activity: cooking via a Zoom meeting every Wednesday evening at 5pm. Having the meetings at 5pm meant the students were able to both enjoy the cooking class and create a meal for their families to eat afterwards. Mrs Maynard told us she wanted to start weekly cooking Zooms to give back to the students. A main driver for her was the importance of continuing the College’s extra-curricular offering—being able to facilitate a different learning experience outside of the new-regular At Home Learning program was very important to her. 

When we spoke with Mrs Maynard, she told us that her inspiration for her first cooking class was the scarce ingredients available due to COVID-19. She chose a No-bake Mars Bar Slice. All ingredients were easy to procure and the recipe allowed her to gauge the level of skill in her 30-student strong class. As the weeks went on, she introduced more cooking elements to the classes, but was always aware of the spread of ages and abilities in her classes.

Mrs Maynard’s Zoom Meetings consistently had students from Years 7-12 in attendance. She was mindful that checking in with the younger students was a must and said that she found herself needing to take the younger student’s perspective and adjust her way of teaching the class at times. This, she said, was one of the most challenging aspects of the initiative, but was, in no way, a deal breaker.

“The most rewarding thing,” Nicole told us of the Zoom Extra-Curricular Activities program, “was simply giving back and being able to connect with students I wouldn’t normally get to connect with.”

Amazing things come out of the St Peters Academic Hub and this attitude, of care, connection and support is no exception! Mrs Maynard’s Zoom meetings were held for 4 weeks. They just recently stopped due to the students coming back to on campus learning, however she did express that both she and the students wish to continue (though they’re aware of the challenges that might arise due to campus-schooling schedules).

“It has been an absolutely enjoyable experience to be involved in and I have loved every minute of it!”

Before she signed off from her last official Cooking Zoom last week, Mrs Maynard asked her students what they found to be the most challenging and enjoyable elements of the initiative. Some joked and commented that the “cleaning up was most challenging” where others gave practical feedback. 

“The audio was hard to hear sometimes,” one student responded. 

“The video wasn’t as clear all the time,” said another. 

Despite minor technical hiccups, which are only to be expected when trying something new, the students loved the cooking classes overall. The No-bake Mars Bar Slice was a clear winner, with ‘eating it’ being the most enjoyable aspect for many students. Others enjoyed ‘learning different ways to do one thing’ and ‘being able to cook for the family and not just have Mum doing it’.

Overall, Mrs Maynard’s cooking class and the other St Peters Zoom Extra-Curricular Activities were a huge success. We’ve had feedback flooding in from parents, students, the staff members leading the classes and people outside the St Peters community and, across the board, the opinions heavily align with one of Mrs Maynard’s cooking students who said their favourite thing was ‘being able to connect with different students in a different way’. 

So, thank you Mrs Maynard, and all St Peters staff involved in our Zoom Extra-Curricular Activities—your efforts to create connections at home has not gone unnoticed!