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Documenting History in the Making

Sadie S. ’22 believes that studying history is the best way to learn how to influence the world for the better. 

In 2019-20, before the pandemic, she and fellow history enthusiasts Nick Y. ’21 and Amelia K. ’21 created the History Club, with George Snook as faculty advisor. They studied current and historical events.

“We learned about the history behind many holidays, explored international relations, examined the decline in college students majoring in history, and watched the movie ‘Lincoln,’” said Sadie. Then Covid-19 hit.

The students quickly mobilized to document the pandemic’s impact, creating the Packer Covid-19 Oral Histories Project. When New York City’s lockdown moved school on to Zoom in spring 2020, club members interviewed 32 people from across the Packer community about their Covid-19 experience. In the fall, they conducted follow-up interviews.

The most conspicuous pattern the students found among their peers was the feeling of missing Packer. Many students noted that they had never thought about how much Packer meant to them. They realized they had taken it for granted.

“I’ll have my good days and my bad days,” Heelah K. ’22 said in her interview. “Sometimes I’ll feel really positive and try to make the best of quarantine... I’ll also have days where I am confused about what’s going on in the world and wish I could be with my friends.”

While many students reported struggling with motivation during remote schooling, some appreciated the chance to slow down, take a break, and reflect on what they value most.

Among the teachers interviewed, many struggled with getting to know their students at the beginning of the school year. Remote schooling, they said, made it difficult to interact with students and form a friendly classroom environment.

“It’s hard to get to know people through a screen,” said Alice Lurain. “I don’t think we’re really ourselves over Zoom. At the beginning of the year, I tried very hard in my class to try to create a sense of community, but I don’t think it was until we went back to in-person learning that I realized how big an impact our virtual start had on our year. I had to get to know my students all over again, outside of a screen.”

Sadie felt that the project’s representation of various perspectives is important, both for the present and the future. “At a time when everyone feels isolated and distant, these interviews show us that we are not alone in our hardships. Because the group of people we interviewed is so diverse, I think anyone who watches these testimonies will be able to relate to them and gain valuable life lessons.”


Read more:

Packer and the Pandemic

Lockdown/Downtime: Faculty and Staff Covid Hobbies

Home/School: Packer Parents Reflect on Remote Learning

Current issue of The Packer Magazine

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