For Taupō performing arts teacher Toni Neve, the COVID-19 physical distancing restrictions have created a number of new challenges. “My ACT2 classes give students an opportunity to work together to build confidence, social skills and creativity” says Toni. “Group-work is a key part of the weekly classes, so it’s been hard when my students have to remain in their bubbles at home” she says. Rather than asking students to spend time on video calls, Toni has come up with some creative ways to overcome the physical distance requirement. “Many of my students are already spending a lot more time on devices during the lockdown. School work and other activities
are happening over video and on the internet. My classes are normally a chance to switch off from screens and connect with each other, so I’ve been working to achieve this in other ways” says Toni.
Enrolled students are able to download class work from ACT2’s new website, created by Toni during the first few days of Alert Level Four. Tasks can be completed independently, and include creating costumes, drawing characters, and playing drama games with other bubble members. “We have a weekly meeting on video conference to give everyone a chance to connect, and to ask questions. I then give them tasks to download from the website and complete off-line” she says. Students have adapted quickly to the new teaching methods, which has come as a big relief. “I was worried that I would lose a large number of enrolments over this time, but that hasn’t happened. Drama is such a great way for children to express themselves and connect with their imagination. It’s a chance to get things out of their system, especially during these uncertain times” says Toni. The next challenge for ACT2 is to audition and cast performers for their annual theatre production. “Each autumn we usually run auditions on-stage with a small audience. This year I’ve asked people to send in their auditions as a video. It’s not quite the same as performing on a stage, as you can have a few takes to get everything right. But so far it seems to be working well” she says. Toni has a few tips for organisations working with students over this time. “Keep it fun and focus on ways to connect. We are all under a lot of pressure, so I try to avoid putting deadlines on work for my classes –it’s really just about offering support and taking time to be there for each other”.