McLean clubs go virtual

School clubs adjust to being fully online


Courtesy of Bridget Donoghue

SWEET MEET – Club sponsor Bridget Donoghue took this picture of what a typical McDance-A-Thon meeting looks like online. Most clubs primarily use Google Meet because users have the ability to see everyone at the same time, making it more similar to in-person meetings.

Belen Ballard and Gianna Russo

With online school comes online extracurriculars, including clubs. To ensure engagement and participation, many clubs have needed to overcome the difficulties of communicating through a screen.
Like normal classes, clubs have been trying to reach out to students and make sure members know what is happening. As clubs meet primarily through platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, it has become much more difficult for many to get new members and encourage participation. One of the many clubs struggling with these aspects is Best Buddies, a club that helps students create relationships with peers in the special education program.
“For in person, we expected to have about 30 more members in the club than last year, but we’ve only reached about 10 more people [from last year],” said junior Ava Birchfield, co-president of Best Buddies.
Like Best Buddies, McDance-A-Thon has also experienced a shortage of club members this year. Last year, they had a record number of students join (over 300), while this year there were about 200 new members.
“We have fewer members this year because it’s been hard to communicate with the whole student body,” said English teacher Bridget Donoghue, the sponsor of McDance-A-Thon.
Figuring out how to overcome the difficulties that come with being virtual has been a struggle for almost all the clubs at McLean, but it is especially challenging for the more hands-on clubs.
“We make sure buddies and members are staying engaged through Google Classroom and other social media platforms by posting information and announcements often. Best Buddies is a hands-on club with members-to-buddy interaction, we also make sure all the members have [each other’s] contact info for their buddies and their buddies’ parents,” Birchfield said.
Several clubs have already begun facing problems, just two months into the school year. Those with large amounts of members face the challenge of making sure students are getting the information that they need. To achieve this, they have had to be much more dependent on social media to communicate information.
“It’s harder to plan meetings and communicate with the club as a whole. And we have to depend on everyone to check our Instagram for updates and information about events, so it’s been challenging overall,” Donoghue said.
Mcdance-A-Thon, along with other fundraising clubs, has been working to create numerous virtual fundraisers. Transitioning to fundraising virtually has been much less successful than in-person events were in the past.
“We usually do several in-person fundraisers over the summer and in the fall, so adjusting to virtual fundraisers means we have to get more creative,” Donoghue said.
Fundraising clubs like McDance-A-Thon and Best Buddies have come up with several ideas of events they hope to do, but it is much more difficult to execute those ideas in a virtual setting. Having high participation numbers within the virtual events has been a challenge for clubs as well.
“Right now we’re trying to plan a virtual fundraiser and we have lots of ideas but we are stuck on knowing how to make the plan go through and work how we want it to. We are currently planning a Bingo for the club during HT flex,” Birchfield said.
Despite the challenges that clubs have to face, they are still working hard to stay active. McDance-A-Thon has held numerous fundraisers already and is also making plans for the future.
“We have a virtual game night coming up. We’ll play whole group games in addition to small breakout group games. We are [also] suggesting people make donations throughout the money we raise that night goes directly to Children’s National [Hospital],” Donoghue said.
Although it is more difficult this year, clubs have already received positive feedback and students have been pleasantly surprised with the transition from in-person to virtual.
“Club meetings have gone pretty well. Obviously, they would be a lot better if they were in person, but they’ve gone pretty well for such a big transition,” junior Einmon Tha said.
This year since it is all online, adjustments have had to be made, making it a lot more difficult to form connections with club members and teachers. It is really difficult to replicate the social environment that people experienced during the in-person events through a virtual setting.
“I miss the social interaction aspect of clubs. Most people join clubs for how fun it is because they get to interact with other people and meet new faces,” Tha said. “Being online just isn’t the same.”