Sign Language Club continues adapting communcation

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The Sign Language Club is no stranger to adapting communication, so when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was ready for the challenge of running virtually.
Senior Kate Debeers, president of the club, coordinated the adjustment. “It was a challenge for us to transfer from completely in-person like we have been and learning how to use different resources,” she said.
The Sign Language Club, like many other clubs at OPRF, is conducting its meetings through Zoom. Using resources such as Remind and Google Classroom, the club is able to keep in touch with its members.
However, the virtual experience presents a number of challenges, such as technology issues during meetings. “Sometimes people lag or cut out, but that’s the biggest issue we are facing,” Debeers said.
This year also presents the challenge of maintaining a sense of connection between club members. “It’s a club all about communication and you’re taking out the in-person,” Debeers said.
The club has also been forced to change some of its goals and projects for the year. “Normally we’ll translate an entire song into sign (language). We are trying to figure out a way to do it online but I’m not sure we’ll be able to,” Debeers said.
The club has also been forced to slow down its pacing, as less information can be discussed over Zoom. “We are not going to be able to get through as much material as I expected at the end of last year,” Debeers said.
However, the virtual setting has presented some upsides. “We are actually planning on getting different guest speakers who normally wouldn’t have been able to come to the school,” Debeers said. Last year, the club only had one native sign language speaker come in, but in this virtual environment, finding potential speakers will be easier for Debeers.
The members of the Sign Language Club remain optimistic as ever with the club continuing to meet this year.
Sitota Blomquist, a junior who has been in the Sign Language Club since her freshman year, stressed that the club can still be just as fun so long as club members feel connected.
“What makes it fun is the people and getting to know them,” Blomquist said. The club has been using Zoom’s breakout rooms feature to foster connections between students. “You can still make friends, we go into small groups and you can talk to each other by signing,” Blomquist said.
She is going to miss some of the projects they used to do in-person though, such as the time the club did “silent cooking.” “We got into the culinary arts room and we did a silent cook, where we just signed,” Blomquist said.
Hannah Zavalkoff, a junior who has been in the sign language club for three years, joined the club initially because of a character on a TV show. “I watched this show when I was in middle school called ‘Switched at Birth’ and one of the girls was deaf and spoke sign language and I found that really interesting,” she said.
At first, Zavalkoff worried the connection between the club members would be lost by not meeting in person. “It is very weird to not be able to go into the meeting and just say hello and talk to your friends right away,” she said.
But later on, Zavalkoff found the breakout rooms helpful in returning to normalcy. “The part I was most worried about was the community bond that we had but we were able to get that through breakout rooms,” she said.
The Sign Language Club meets Mondays at 3:15. The Zoom link is available on Google Classroom. You can join by going to Google Classroom, clicking “Add Class” and entering the classroom code: v6uba5w.

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