How VAPA adapts to distance learning

McClatchy staff faces challenge of connection to students

Computer screen of Zoom VAPA class

Due to COVID-19, school is quite a different experience this year with the move to distance learning. Everyone is adapting to distance learning the best they can, including C.K. McClatchy’s VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) program.

Normally, VAPA classes are interactive and hands-on. VAPA offers visual arts classes such as ceramics, 2D art, and photography as well as theatre and dance classes.

Mollie Morrison is the VAPA coordinator and teaches 3D art, advanced and AP sculpting, and after school theatre. When asked about how her classes have changed this year, she said, “I mean, zoom, for one. I did a ton of research to decide what applications and what collaborations to use…. It has just been about getting to know students and really making sure everyone understands. I can’t see what they’re making and what’s going on.”

Art classes require more materials than other classes and Morrison faced the challenge of ensuring that students have the materials they need. When asked how that is actualized, she said, “We created art kits for kids. It’s a lot easier for 2D art. With sculpture, you need so many things. They needed rulers and templates for their first project. Everything they would normally have in the classroom, they now need at home. They all need different materials for AP too. It’s a constant making sure every student has supplies.” Morrison has to create art kits for each student for every project, which students pick up from the school.

Beyond just material resources, Morrison has found that distance learning led to “Students not feeling connected to other students. It’s hard to build a connection….It would be so much easier if we could see and interact….”

“Most are participating so that’s cool. The first project was due this week and the work was stellar! I just want to know them! It’s heartwarming,” she added.

Morrison is also working on VAPA’s annual Haunted Theatre. Normally, the Haunted Theatre is an interactive haunted house experience. Morrison says that there are some obvious changes this year, “We are doing a horror film on Zoom. We have created scripts and storyboards. We are making goodie bags and film suggestions for Halloween too.”

In addition to her normal classes, Morrison is teaching after school theatre, which is still putting on a fall production. “We are trying to do Much Ado About Nothing live, which is bananas….. It’s like a big giant puzzle and it’s so much fun,” she said.

Michael Alongi (‘21) is the student director of the fall production. The show is an abridged, 80s themed version of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The show will take place over zoom and be in mid-December.

Auditions were simplified and held in the form of a table read where people were assigned roles from there. Alongi said, “The table read was incredible and amazing to watch. We put together a cast list based on who worked well together and we wanted to push people and gave them roles they wouldn’t normally have.”

The tech side of the production had to adapt and find a way to conduct the show over Zoom. “The normal jobs had to be transferred to Zoom. Set construction will set up the Zoom instead. People will paint backgrounds so all the actors have similar backgrounds. Lights and sound will figure out the mics over zoom. Costumes and props will figure out what people will wear and how to get it to them. Shoutout to tech, I love them,” said Alongi.

“Our goal is to make fun art and give people something to look forward to. We are finding ways to make it relevant to today. It will be fun and a geetar will be featured!” added Alongi.

VAPA’s music program led by Jorge Munoz has also drastically changed with the move to an online class, “The ensemble music classes – band, choir, and orchestra – are in a different situation.  Distance learning has made traditional collaboration and interaction all but impossible. As one might imagine musicians see these as the most important aspects of making music. Our ensembles, like many others, have resorted to having virtual rehearsals and performances.” Munoz added that slow internet or bad audio can make it really difficult to transfer the music over Zoom.

Munoz says that students still remain determined to produce their work, “spend(ing) their asynchronous time practicing, perfecting, and recording their individual music parts. The goal is to have all members make the best recordings of their music then combine all of the individual recordings to form a unified ‘virtual performance.’ We are currently on track to present a virtual fall concert on November 12,”  said Munoz.

The music classes are trying their best to adapt and continue to collaborate and make music any way they can.

“Not being able to make music with one another on a daily basis takes a lot of the joy out of being enrolled in the class. We are all getting through this the best that we can, but I’m sure I speak for all of the students when I say that we are hoping to return to in-person instruction soon,” added Munoz.

Distance learning has drastically altered the experience of art classes, but VAPA is doing its best to adapt and keep students engaged and creative. Distance learning limits the substance of art classes, but students are still able to express their creativity via some exciting annual VAPA events that will be executed virtually.