Home cooking has taken centre stage, both as a pandemic necessity and creative outlet. Branksome Hall is no different—as the Virtual Baking Club has been one of the bright spots in a challenging year.
“My favorite and, I think, most interesting story about Clubs this year, was the creation of the Virtual Baking Club,” says Clubs Prefect Lauren, reflecting on activities to date after the final Clubs Fair of the school year in the Branksome Open Universe on March 17.
“[Baking Club] ended up being super popular during spring quarantine and it was a club that the virtual environment catered to. This is just one of many examples where club heads were able to provide unique opportunities to students when faced with what seemed like endless challenges.”
The message shared with students at Wednesday’s Clubs Fair was that there’s still plenty of time to join a new club, and all Grades 7-11 students were encouraged to attend. More than 300 attendees visited the first virtual Clubs Fair in October
and another 100 dropped by on Wednesday.
Offered once again in Open U on the VirBELA platform, student avatars visited presentations in breakout rooms off the main halls, chatting with Club Heads and exploring interests ranging from pastimes such as Dungeons & Dragons to weightier pursuits such as Model UN and Debating, and service-oriented ventures such as letter-writing to the elderly.
”At first it seemed that it would be impossible to continue the liveliness and joy that students get from clubs, in a virtual format, but I'm very lucky to have worked with a group of resilient club heads,” says Lauren.
For example, Business Club is keeping up a steady stream of virtual programming, as students learn about basic business concepts and are exposed to many business-related activities and competitions, such as the Virtual Stock Market Challenge, says Club Head of Community Outreach Kaitlin. Indeed, Zoom makes it easier to gather speakers, as evidenced by the Club’s ‘The New Way of Business’ Speaker Series, where Branksome student entrepreneurs, alumni and community members share their business experiences.
“I was able to get my aunt, founder and CEO of Sweet Flour Bake Shop, to speak about working in business and as an entrepreneur,” says Business Club Head Naomi. “She had previously spoken at my Grade 4 Career Day, so it was a nice, full-circle moment to see how much her company has changed, now that I am in Grade 12!”
With an eye to in-person activities resuming, not all will return to normal, as many lessons have been learned and advantages gained.
“The pandemic forced us to stay organized and innovative, and it showed us the resilience of our club members,” says Naomi. “Even with missing Zoom links and spotty wifi, everyone involved has kept a positive outlook and made this year in the Business Club one I will never forget.”