Life Experience in Stem
Ariana (she/her/hers), 15, California
“It was in January of 2020 when I heard of the flu from China, I did not think much of it at the time since the new flu was something that I got used to hearing about. But it was in March when I first learned the term Covid-19, and my life was affected. The entire world was suffering a Pandemic Flu and dying. I can remember seeing long lines outside of stores, isles of Costco bare, and toilet paper were scarce. Attending school in person was prohibited and transformed to long-distance learning and zoom. It seemed like a bad dream, but it was real. At first, everyone thought, no school how cool, but as clicha, as it may sound, you never know how much you miss something until it is actually gone.
The pandemic paralyzed us all in fear, and I was afraid to see my grandparents because I did not want to make them sick. Like everyone else, I stayed home alone in my room and saw the world from behind a mask. I missed the hugs and kisses and good food we had at our family's celebrations and seeing everyone's smile. The pandemic restrictions did not allow me to attend any in-person events, they all were canceled or moved to zoom. This has affected me greatly since I was an active participant at school with clubs, at church as an altar server, and enjoyed volunteering in our community.
The purpose why schools ended in-person learning and went to long-distance learning was to combat Covid-19 and the spread of the disease. We were told no more hugs, kisses, handshakes, or gatherings in large groups. You need to be six feet apart and wear a mask. In the beginning, we tried to go to school, and a few students wore a mask, but then all school field trips, performances, and dances were canceled. Then all classes went online even graduation. The reason was safety, you were safer at home away from hundreds of your fellow students and teachers that could transmit the disease. We needed to bend the curve because we were dying at an alarming rate. I can remember turning on the television and watching the reports from the CDC, and the Whitehouse Team discussing Covid-19. I was afraid to leave my house, let alone go to school in person. Teachers used programs like Go-Guardian to monitor students devices while they adapted their teaching to an online style.
To be honest, there were some benefits to zoom, once you get the hang of it, it was very convenient by saving you the time to physically travel. I do not know about you, but I have a hard time getting out of bed. Before I was always late to school and missed my breakfast, but with online learning that all changed. I was able to roll out of bed, log on, and presto I be in school. I save time getting ready, packing my stuff, driving to school, and no more pickups or drop-offs. I could even attend club meetings with a click of a button and sometimes using two devices and sometimes I can be at two places at once, but that did confuse if they were both talking.
I am sure if I was physically in the classroom, I would have paid more attention to the teacher, sitting at a desk and working in groups, and learned more. Personal interaction with other students was nonexistent, and music practice and sporting events did not translate well on zoom. Some things need to be done in person to get the full effect. I remember in my biology class, the teacher said were skipping the labs, so I never got to experience that. I learned that zoom is helpful, but nothing beats personal interaction and hands-on experience to use all your senses of touching and smelling.
That is when I began to do more with STEM and computer coding because everything was on zoom. I joined my school's cyber team with Mr. S. He was so nice, he allowed me to attend the cyber camp and waived the fee because my father was not working at the time and under the PPP program. I attended the program and learned a lot about cyber security. This extra boost of knowledge gave me the confidence to compete on an all-girls team. I don't think we did well since we were all new at cyber security but our school's other teams with more experienced students did very well nationally. I really like the after-school club and have signed up for a team at next year's tryouts, I hope I get selected.
Mr. S encouraged me to sign up and teach at the camp we had for elementary and junior high students. I did not think I had the knowledge or confidence to do it, but I am so glad I had the experience. Turns out I really enjoy teaching others, and by teaching others you improve your own knowledge. I also gained experience standing in front of others and speaking. I have always had a soft voice and trouble speaking, though not a disability, mostly just fear and having people look at me and being comfortable with myself. Turns out I really like to speak and share my knowledge, and now I am much more outgoing and confident with myself. Could all this be due to the Covid-19 flu and being forced to do online school and use zoom. I have grown a lot as a person and young adult and I thank the experience I had with STEM, our cyber camp/team, and Mr. S.”