Social distancing yields creative ways to socialize

While students can’t physically be close to one another, Senior Sean Yesko and his friends park in a circle in an empty lot to socialize while maintaining social distance. This particular circle was a get-together to celebrate Yesko’s birthday. (Photo courtesy Sean Yesko)

By Charlotte Geier, Editor-in-Chief

When social distancing orders were given in the middle of March, students and staff alike jumped right into the routine of Zoom calls and e-learning assignments. While education continues outside of the school walls, students and staff have had to find creative ways to remain connected in person—while six feet apart—with friends and family. 

This sort of in-person connection has been sought after by teachers, who are working to keep their children entertained as well. 

“We have gone over to their friends’ houses and played games like Pictionary and Second Chance using expo markers on the front window,” English teacher Mr. Jim McGowan said. “It is funny to see the kids interacting with the glass between them while on speakerphone. It is just good for them to see some of their friends in person, rather than just doing Google Hangouts and Zoom meetings.”

Mr. McGowan and his kids play Pictionary on their friends’ front window during the stay-at-home order. In-person activities such as this provide a welcome break from the online interactions that are prevalent right now. (Photo courtesy Mr. McGowan)

Students are also finding ways to see each other while staying far enough apart. Some inspiration for these distanced gatherings came from popular internet sources.

“There is a TikTok trend where friends meet in a parking lot and park their cars six feet apart in a circle with the trunks facing each other, and they sit in the back of their cars with their trunks open,” senior Niki Iatrides said. “My friends and I have done this a couple of times now.”

However, another challenge with social distancing has been birthday celebrations. For Iatrides’ birthday, she organized a similar sort of gathering at the park. 

“For my birthday, my friends and I had a social distance picnic where we brought our own blankets and food and met at a park in town,” Iatrides said. “We sat six feet apart from one another in a circle and enjoyed our lunches together.”

Another popular way to celebrate birthdays during the shelter-at-home order has been through drive-by birthdays. 

“For my mom’s birthday, we wanted her to have a special day even though we are stuck inside, and it’s not as a normal birthday would go,” junior Abby Ciprian said. “We contacted friends and family, and my sister and I made signs to put up in the yard that said ‘happy birthday.’ The next day, she was surprised by the signs and thought it was super cute. She was even more surprised when she was outside and all the cars with family and friends drove by, honking and yelling for her.”

While social distancing can take a toll on one’s overall happiness, students are noticing that these occasions are keeping people upbeat. 

“We did a drive by for my cousin’s birthday, and my sister put a drive by together for my mom’s birthday,” junior Sydney Lucas said. “They are pretty impactful for both the person who’s birthday it is and the people celebrating because you get to see everyone you haven’t been able to in over a month. It definitely brightened my week.”

In addition to hosting a drive-by celebration for her mom’s birthday, Lucas’ family went a step further to host a lively birthday celebration at home. 

“My siblings and I dressed up in dresses and suits, decorated our living room, and had our mom walk downstairs while we pretended to be the paparazzi on her birthday,” Lucas said. “It was like a red carpet event.”

While these clever celebrations take place on special occasions, other students try to stay safely connected with their peers on a daily basis. 

“One way I’ve been social distancing while also having some sense of normalcy has been working out at a safe distance with some guys at Centennial Hill,” senior Ryan Kilburg said. “It definitely has been a good way to combat social distancing blues because it allows me to still see people I want to see.”

However, other students are skeptical that these interactions are safe enough to be deemed social distancing. 

“I think that it’s okay to see your friends as long as you’re actually staying 6 feet apart,” sophomore Madeleine Riggs said. “However, usually people don’t stay that far apart from each other… We should be keeping our distance now because then we can actually have a fun summer.” 

Riggs has followed the social distancing orders strictly.

“Social distancing means staying at home for the majority of your time and taking the necessary precautions when you do go outside, like wearing a mask and staying six feet apart,” Riggs said. “My family has been practicing social distancing by staying, for the most part, in my house. When I go to the store, I always wear a mask and wash my hands.”

With all the time at home, other families are bringing it back to basics with classic crafts and games. 

“Another thing my family has done this quarantine is a painting night,” Lucas said. “We all got canvases and painted anything with a lantern in it. That was the best part of quarantine, and we are definitely doing another painting night soon.”

For Mr. McGowan, keeping his family engaged has become a similar mix of projects and at-home entertainment. 

“We have done every craft project imaginable: paper mache sculptures, toothpick creations, Perler beads, painting, and even writing and performing puppet shows,” Mr. McGowan said. “[We’ve played] lots of board games, too.”

Overall, students are taking social distance orders in stride and using the bulk of their time to focus on their general well-being. 

“I have been trying to stay busy and keep a routine as much as I can,” Ciprian said. “I have been baking a lot and working out and trying to stay active. I have been able to spend more time with my family…and also catch up on sleep!”

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