Adventist schools get creative during COVID-19

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Teachers from Tweed Valley Adventist College welcoming students back for Term 2.

Staff from Adventist schools across Australia and New Zealand have worked hard to adapt to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. Listed below are some of the creative initiatives by students, chaplains and teachers designed to help nurture healthy school communities during this time.

Prescott College (Adelaide, SA)

Denise Nelson, Record staff

Students and teachers from Prescott College were proactive and well-prepared for COVID-19, thanks to Zoom training, plenty of hand sanitiser and a survey to gauge the mental health of students.

“When COVID-19 was rearing its ugly head, our intrepid principal Peter Charleson bought a plentiful supply of hand sanitiser, before the hoarders bought it all and there was none left,” explained senior English teacher Denise Nelson. “Our resourceful science lab technician prepared a 70 per cent ethanol grade disinfectant for staff and students to wipe down desks, chairs and door handles regularly, while our student body was still present at school.”

Prior to the South Australian government announcing their social distancing policy, the school facilitated a seamless transition from classroom teaching to Zoom lessons, beginning March 25. Chapel services and class worships were also conducted online to fulfill students’ spiritual needs.

In addition, PE teachers prepared humorous and motivational videos for students at home, to encourage them to do physical activities, and a survey was conducted by the school to gauge the mental health of students studying remotely. Parents commented favourably about the “proactive thorough and measured response” taken by the college.

Students have now returned to school for Term 2—80 per cent returned the first day, and 90 per cent the next.

“Overall, at a time of societal uncertainty and apprehension, the students from Prescott College experienced the least disruption to their learning program,” said Mrs Nelson.

Tweed Valley Adventist College (Murwillumbah, NSW)

Paul Fua, Record staff

Students enjoying a welcome back breakfast prepared by TVAC teachers.

In response to COVID-19, Tweed Valley Adventist College (TVAC) developed a well-rounded educational timetable and home agricultural program to help students thrive academically, spiritually, physically and emotionally.

School principal Paul Fua shared that, through trial and error, the school developed a new timetable designed to limit screen time and incorporate a home agriculture program, daily exercise and modified expectation of learning content.

Each school day began with a devotional video from the school chaplains and an invitation to join the Bible reading plan sent to all students, staff and parents. Weekly Bible studies also continued through Zoom, with pastoral support being a priority for chaplains and teachers.

In addition, seed packs and instructions were prepared and posted to every home for students to start a home garden. In the meantime, students of essential workers—who continued to attend school—planted out the school gardens.

“These gardens thrived and have provided produce for families when fresh food prices soared and people were panic buying toilet paper and other essentials,” said Mr Fua.

One of the school’s teachers developed a service program called “COVERT-19” to encourage students to perform random acts of kindness and service. It included cooking the evening meal, vacuuming the floor or mowing the lawn without being asked. Students were required to journal their activity in their Google classroom.

Further video content—including messages of hope and encouragement to fellow students—was posted by the school principal, chaplains and primary and secondary captains. Students and staff also formed a virtual choir to perform “It Is Well”.

Parents’ reaction to TVAC’s proactive and well-rounded COVID-19 response has been overwhelmingly positive, with multiple parents writing in and thanking the school for their leadership, clarity, adaptability and nurture.

“We want to thank our parents for the way they travelled this bumpy road with us,” said Mr Fua. “We all know that online learning is not the most suitable option for education, but they were grateful for our efforts to maintain a continuity of learning.”

The school’s doors have now opened again to students, and they were welcomed back with a breakfast served by teachers.

Northpine Christian College (Dakabin, Qld)

Adventists South Queensland Facebook/Record staff

TVAC isn’t the only school to perform as a virtual choir. Students and staff from Northpine Christian College performed the song “Waymaker” online during Term 2.

“Whilst we have been unable to meet together this term, we’ve still been able to sing together,” the video said.

Whangarei Adventist Christian School (Whangarei, NZ)

Rosalie McFarlane, Record staff

Activities included in the “May Movement” initiative.

Whilst in lockdown, Whangarei Adventist Christian School started a health initiative called “Movement May” as a way of connecting with families and helping them keep active during lockdown.

The school has set up a Facebook group to encourage and facilitate connection as part of the initiative.

Gilson College (Mernda, Vic)

Helen Jakupec, Record staff

During lockdown at Gilson College, spiritual health was a central focus, with each school day beginning with nearly 100 per cent staff attendance for morning worship. School captains and senior student leaders created regular broadcasts for the school community, sharing messages of encouragement and hope.

Mrs Maclean and Mrs Wilson rallied together the principal and a school bus to tell the students that they are missed.

In addition, chaplains conducted weekly chapels online, as well as Friday evening Zoom catch-ups called “Fired Up”, and conducted visitations to college families on Friday and Sunday afternoons, sharing GLOW tracts called “Live More Happy” by Dr Darren Morton and having “prayers on the verandah” with most families.

In addition to spiritual health, physical health is also a priority at Gilson College, thanks to the work of sports coordinator Ryan Starrett.

Mr Starrett created a fitness challenge for the school community during May using STRAVA. Students have committed themselves to completing daily physical activity, and the results show many students beating their personal best times.

So far for May, there are more than 40 active participants, 211 activities uploaded, 1300 kilometres travelled and 9000 minutes of exercise.

Wellington Seventh-day Adventist School (Wellington, NZ)

Karla Mitchell/Record staff

Staff and administrators at Wellington Seventh-day Adventist School were able to hand out devices to nearly every student who needed one prior to lockdown. Each class has a Zoom meeting every morning for worship and then scheduled meetings throughout the day for group reading and maths classes.

Families are encouraged to take time out from school learning if they need a break.

Every Friday afternoon, the whole school community gathers for chapel (“God Connection”) on Zoom. Attendance is very good and parents sit in with their students, who have given overwhelmingly positive feedback.

Students doing an afternoon craft session on Zoom.

“Worship has been really enjoyable. My son really struggled not being at school, but we found when he was willing to participate it was great and the learning was made fun to keep them engaged.”

“The school did well at preparing the schoolwork and tasks and selecting apps and videos that really work for the kids. Also, the words of encouragement they receive from all of you really help them a lot.”

“The daily messages from principal Karla [Mitchell] has been awesome and reassuring . . . encouraging participation from parents/families as well with God connection/singing on Fridays—awesome. It was lovely to have the school Chaplain Tolo ring us as well to see how we doing during this time. Thank you.”

Rotorua Seventh-day Adventist School (Rotorua, NZ)

Lanea Strickland/Record staff

Students from Rotorua Seventh-day Adventist School took part in the “Stand at Dawn” Ceremony despite being in Level 4 lockdown. Students made Anzac biscuits, painted poppies and created mini displays to put at their front letterbox to remember our ANZAC soldiers.

School families shared photos of themselves, up before the sun at 6am, standing on their street alongside others at the usual dawn service time. The school believes that keeping relationships, community and whanaungatanga is important during this time and that such activities are vital for students’ wellbeing.

If your school has created new programs or started new initiatives in response to COVID-19, we’d love to hear about it! Please email us your story to news@record.net.au.