There were no field trips this spring for Monterey middle school’s Grade 7 ocean studies program.
No overnight camping, no walks with First Nations leaders, no field excursions led by University of Victoria academics.
Plainly put, just another list of things cancelled due to the pandemic.
At last, some of the ocean studies kids are back in school. Technically their final grades are in but the class had committed to one last project regardless (OK, they also didn’t get to show off their three-dimensional models).
The class has partnered with the Royal B.C. Museum rapid response project, in which members of the public share their COVID-19 stories through audio recordings, videos, and images. The ocean studies students are doing audio recordings of their reflections on the pandemic, which will go into the RBCM archives.
“We’ll have all 25 students submitting about one minute each,” teacher Mark Brown said.
The recordings will be stitched together and anonymous, though most of the public submissions are attributed.
RBCM@Home: Documenting the Pandemic starts at noon today! Join archivists Genevieve Weber and City Emily Lonie for a discussion on their work and documenting daily life during COVID-19. https://t.co/DjvI4F1gtm— Royal BC Museum (@RoyalBCMuseum) April 28, 2020
“It’s a big deal, COVID-19,” said student Chelsea Copeman. “I had my birthday right at the beginning and it was my 13th, my first birthday as a teenager, and I wanted to have all my friends but I couldn’t. It’s not something people have experienced. Imagine if you don’t live with your mom and you’re not allowed to visit her on Mother’s Day.”
While many of the youth shared a similar sentiment, they each tell their own story.
“Diaries and things kept during disasters, not that this is a disaster, but those are amazing stories to hear,” student Erin Faber said.
Considering the pandemic canceled a lot of the activities that the class’ learning is centered around, Brown and the class jumped at the chance to add this project into their final days at school.
“It’s no longer about getting good grades, it’s about making sure the learning is authentic and that the kids are participating,” said Brown. “For them, it’s not about getting my approval at this point, it’s about doing something important. When we try something, we care.”
Chris O’Connor, learning program developer with RBCM, said so far there are about 150 submissions in total from the public.
“We have worked with some other classrooms as well, and it’s great to have the youth voice,” O’Connor said. “It’s an opportunity to collect as many different kinds of stories and perspectives and seeing what people are deciding is important to them.”
Some submissions are going up on the RBCM’s online gallery with the goal of hosting a tangible exhibition one day.
For now, the kids see their oral history as a way for adults to look at the pandemic through their eyes, said student Beatrice Sharp.
“Adults can get a feel for what youth are experiencing,” Sharp said. “I think it will be good for people who didn’t know about what it was like.”
“I’m extremely honoured, it’s nice to know I have a chance to have an impact at some point, maybe in the future, on what it’s been like,” said student Keira van den Berg.
“It’s not awful [for everyone] but it is also not an experience that we’ve been through before. And it has been difficult being locked up in my room.”