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Teens in quarantine: Students document pandemic for future generations

When doing research of his family history, Peter Hastings discovered that his great-grandmother had died of the Spanish Flu 100 years ago. He wishes there had been more documentation of that time in history to learn from it and apply it today.

As a video production teacher at Paramus Catholic High School, he’s now asking his students to document the current pandemic with daily vlogs, or video logs.

“It’s important that we document things like this,” Hastings said. “When people look back, (they’ll have) more information and more detail; a story of what was going on.”

More than 100 juniors and seniors are taking part in the project, which started immediately after the school building was closed back in March. Each student is required to submit five videos a week of about one minute in length. In the videos, they can talk about what they did that day, reflect on current world events and discuss predictions of what’s to come.

“The students have responded great. They’ve gotten into. It’s a personal diary for them,” Hastings said.

“In these vlogs, the topics range from what we’re doing to how we’re feeling about the current situation,” explained 11th-grader Annaliese Fagan. “What I tend to talk about is how I go about my day that has been modified due to the pandemic. These vlogs also have become a sort of diary for ‘a day in the life of a teen in quarantine,’ and I’m documenting all my thoughts and hopes for the future. I like that I am able to keep track of what’s going on in my life. Without these videos, I would have lost the concept of time and I would have nothing to remember this important time in history.”

“Mr. Hasting's vlog project is one that is very reflective and insightful,” added fellow 11th-grader Sofia Locker. “COVID-19 has affected every person in the world in one way or another, and in the midst of trying to adapt to a new lifestyle, it's therapeutic to take a few minutes out of my day and reflect. In my videos I mention the date and follow up with a list of things that I did that day, from what type of breakfast I have all the way to my plans for the next day. Then, I use news articles and resources to talk about the COVID-19 updates for that day. It's beneficial to vlog a day-to-day update as circumstances are changing so rapidly.”

Hastings admitted the students are working harder from home than they would have in the regular school environment, and the results are beneficial on multiple levels. “They get to work on their own and add their own creative style to it. They are also becoming better speakers and learning about public speaking,” he explained.

With each student creating dozens of their own vlogs, there is now a collection of several thousand videos. Hastings said the plan is to make the videos available for future generations. The files will remain available in the high school’s library, with the possibility of public libraries in the future.

“(We will) keep them as separate files. I will probably edit it into a highlight video. We’ll also keep the originals,” he said.

Hastings, who has been at Paramus Catholic for nine years, also teaches computer graphics. He’s doing a similar project with those students, but in the form of a magazine. They document their experiences daily in writing and with photos. He said that documentation would also be made available.

“Everyone’s having a good time doing it. Everyone’s having fun,” he said.

The video production students admitted they like being able to contribute during this uncertain time for the benefit of future students.

“This video project serves as a modern-day time capsule, not only for myself but for future generations,” Locker said. “We are living through a historic time, and as Winston Churchill once said, ‘Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.’”

“I hope that future generations are able to see these vlogs and paint a picture in their head about what it was actually like to be a teenager during this quarantine, missing out on so many life-changing events,” echoed Fagan. “I hope they recognize that, through prayer, there will be comfort and peace during any situation. I hope they don’t take for granted the time they have with their family and friends and that they learn to appreciate the little things, because before this crisis, we would go about the day assuming there would be a tomorrow. And one thing I learned from this entire experience is that tomorrow is not guaranteed.”