Copenhagen International School has launched a new slate of virtual after school activities to engage students outside the classroom.
Photographs: Copenhagen International School
Text: Sarah Redohl
Copenhagen International School has long had a robust roundup of after school activities, including 25 team and individual sports, after school care club for its youngest children, music lessons, academic support in students' native languages, and nearly 30 extracurricular activities ranging from coding to cooking.
When new COVID-related restrictions were announced in December, CIS's mother tongue lessons and after school care club were able to continue. However, most after school activities were put on an indefinite pause.
"For a while, we waited to see what the new circumstances were going to be," said Athletic Coordinator Todor Kubura, "but we realised we needed to be more proactive and develop an alternative solution."
In early February, instructors, coaches, and student leaders began brainstorming how CIS could continue to offer a broader range of its afterschool activities. On 1 March, CIS launched a wide range of virtual after school activities (22 activities and 16 sports programmes) that aim to engage students outside the classroom and get away from their screens.
For example, Debdutta Dasgupta has developed a relevant and therapeutic programme for the students who participate in her after school art programme. Despite being limited to the materials students have at home, Debdutta has gotten creative with the programme. "I'm trying to incorporate the topics of the time into the students' art," she said. For example, the students drew portraits that they wore as a mask when folded and showed the entire face when unfolded. In another project, students drew what they imagined was outside their homes' windows they've spent so much time in this winter. "Art could be a positive way to normalise what we're all facing."
"Imagine the state you'd have to be in to miss being outside in the middle of rain and snow! It may still be cold, and maybe the kids can't feel their toes, but they're happy."
Football Coach Esben Kold has also seen the benefits of CIS's new take on after school activities. CIS's sports programmes have been able to gather in-person since 1 March, and students have returned with renewed excitement. Instead of the usual 10 to 15 participants, Esben said he's averaging 25 players at each practice. Esben coaches four different age groups, and he's noticed kids of all ages have spent more time than usual chatting with one another during practice. "Seeing your friends is very important when you're a kid," he said. "Imagine the state you'd have to be in to miss being outside in the middle of rain and snow! It may still be cold, and maybe the kids can't feel their toes, but they're happy."
Both Esben and Debdutta plan to continue some virtual aspects of their programmes even after normal activities resume. "Some of the students find it convenient," Debdutta said. "Those who are really into it can do it on weekends, too."
Esben has continued some aspects of virtual practice since in-person practice has resumed and plans to incorporate it permanently in some ways. "More introverted students, both in sports and academics, feel less pressure in a virtual setting than they do in a large group," he said. He added that virtual training is a chance to practice skills that need additional work for all students. "We hope to find a good balance between the in-person and individual aspects of the game."
Some extracurricular activities, however, haven't translated to virtual after school as easily. For example, dance has been difficult since many kids live in rented apartments that may not have ample practice space. Cooking classes have also been challenging due to the ingredients and tools required. However, CIS hopes to continue overcoming challenges to expand its virtual offerings in the coming months.
Already, CIS has received positive feedback from the parents of kids taking advantage of the current slate of programmes. The teaching staff is also happy with the new programme. "There was nothing worse than entering school and not hearing children's voices, for the gyms and fields to be empty, to not feel the energy the kids bring to school," Todor said. "It's rewarding to have some of that back."