Activities and athletics allow students to connect with each other, learn more about themselves, and help them better understand individual and group identity. When the pandemic hit, students were thrust into a new world where they didn’t know if or when they would ever be able to gather again. Although signs are emerging that students will be able to better experience in-person activities soon, school dances have been challenging in trying to follow state guidelines and still keep students safe.
At the start of the pandemic, it was common to hear how people were struggling with being isolated in their homes. But we asked what would happen if you could be in the comfort of your own home and still connect with the community?
As the spring of 2020 marched forward, a new form of social gathering, led by DJ D-Nice, took the world by storm as he began playing music on his social media channel. Hundreds of thousands of people turned in nightly to virtually dance their troubles away in the comfort of their own living areas.
What made D-Nice so successful was that he found a platform that everyone could access, and he found ways to interact with those he could “virtually see” in attendance.
This mode of creating community does not have to be solely limited to international DJs and can be translated to high schools nationwide. Last year, our school hosted a virtual Senior Ball so that students could be with their friends and teachers one last time before graduation.
To host the event, we had to address the following needs:
To accommodate these needs, we utilized three different technologies: Instagram, email and the NFHS Network. We promoted the event three weeks before and created a new Instagram account that was used both for publicity and for actual webcast.
Instagram allowed for comment interaction and, with a teacher moderator, we were able to quickly filter out any comments that were not deemed school-appropriate and block them from the event after a warning. The rules were clearly articulated: all comments must be positive; anything otherwise was a removal. Nevertheless, the potential for irresponsible posts is ever present so we promoted an alternative listening platform that does not allow comments: the NFHS Network.
Understanding that some parents do not allow students to have social media accounts, the NFHS Network became the platform we promoted as our official platform for viewing and listening. This also allowed the entire community to watch and take part in our community event.
For interaction, we encouraged students and teachers to share pictures and videos via email and we would periodically post them on the live feed. We even had the DJ share out text messages from the staff so that everyone felt the positivity.
At the highest point of attendance that night we had more than 600 students watching the webcast simultaneously, remembering the good times of the past years and celebrating together – albeit in a distanced fashion – what they had accomplished.
The feedback our site received from the community was positive; and if we ever face a similar environment, we now feel empowered to run a virtual dance so that students can feel better supported and together in times when distancing for safety is necessary.
Dr. Steve Amaro, CMAA, is an assistant principal at Freedom High School in Oakley, California. He previously was an English content coach, athletic director and tennis coach for the school. He is a member of the High School Today Publications Committee.