Madeline P.’s ’20 daily routine follows a simple schedule. Wake up around 8:30, spend the morning on a walk with her mother until 10 if she doesn’t have class, attend her first class of the day, break for brunch with her family around 11, finish classes, and then end the day with a two hour walk with a friend who lives close by. In the hours in between that remain free, her time is spent reading, cooking with family, and exploring the outdoors.
“The days go by pretty quickly,” Madeline said. “I’m not complaining.”
For Madeline and others, a new life at home is the reality. With the school shut down until the end of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter in place order, classes have moved online and shortened to only an hour to reduce the amount of time students are on screens. With no commute times and extracurriculars cancelled, students have been able to spend their extra time on a plethora of activities to keep themselves busy. For many, this time has allowed for some to explore new interests and return to old ones.
When Clay A. ’20 isn’t catching up on sleep, he’s indulging in video games and other hobbies.
“I’ve been self-studying a lot of math, which has been fun,” Clay said. “It’s a lot of cooking, YouTube, Animal Crossing, and math.”
Laura S. ’20 has engaged in similar pastimes, using her extra time to play Animal Crossing on her Wii, arranging and composing music pieces by hand and on Musescore, and practicing her piano skills.
For Abby P. ’21, the extra time at home has allowed her to work on puzzles, bake snacks during her lunch break, and work on her creative writing Quest Project. During the month of March she made a goal for herself to “write something every day.”
“I haven’t been writing every day since then, I have actually written quite a few poems over the past month,” Abby said. “Creative writing technically is my quest, so I’ve been using that as motivation to write more often.”
Similar to Abby, Maya M. ’20 has also spent time working on puzzles that she hadn’t finished. She’s also found that the time has given her opportunities to dive into her love for art. As her art classes were canceled due to the virus, she now often spends her afternoons after school filling in coloring books, and rekindling her love for painting.
“I’ve always wanted to try painting at home but I’ve never had the time or materials or the effort to get started,” Maya said. “Now I have the time and the resources.”
Madeline has followed suit with the non-screen activities. When not exercising or outside, she’s been indulging in novels that she hasn’t had time to read during the traditional school year.
“I’ve been reading, which is nice because I feel like all of high school I was too busy to read books that I really wanted to,” said Madeline, who is currently working through—and recommends—Richard Powers’ The Overstory.
Not all of her unscheduled days go towards hobbies. Despite the school closure, Madeline is still working on her independent study, a continuation of her summer internship at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub. Her work, a mix of machine learning and biology, currently focuses on synthesizing data that she gathered of changes in mice genomes as they age so it can be accessible to the public. On some days where she needs to be at home for conference calls, the time spent working on her research can be between four to five hours. She said it’s been challenging but nice to have the extra time to spend on her work.
“You can do it remotely, but it’s definitely hard to communicate over email,” Madeline said. “I really hope that I’ll be able to go back into the actual office because it’s such an exciting place to be.”
For Adam S. ’23, he’s run into the same problem with his Quest project. When school was in session, Adam was working together with Dr. Uta Francke at Stanford to study duplication and transformation in chromosomes. While now he’s pivoted his focus toward researching “the causes and symptoms of trisomy 17 and 13” and “how the cause is different from a chromosome translocation,” his work with Dr. Uta Francke has been over the phone as they can’t meet in the lab. He’s used his extra time to go further in depth on subjects that fascinate him.
“I’m really interested in genetic disorders so I’ve been researching more about them, and reading about stuff I’ve always been interested in,” Adam said.
For others, Quest has been more of a family affair. Cooking has become a popular hobby for students to pursue during their weekends and break times and has allowed students to connect with friends and family over food. Molly C. ’22, who’s Quest project is baking, has found that the closure has given her time to work on her craft and bond with her family.
“I enjoy baking—it’s one of my hobbies,” Molly said. “It’s an easy way to have fun with my family, so that’s nice. Also there’s yummy food afterwards.”
While some baking ingredients have become sparse at stores, she’s used what she has to bake desserts with her younger brother. Abby has used her extra time during the school day to cook herself a snack.
“Now I can go and bake things during my hour long lunch break,” Abby said.
Nathan L ’23 has incorporated cooking in his daily routine, making breakfast, lunch, and dinner with his sister Alyssa for his family.
“My sister and I have become more responsible with us sometimes teaming up to cook dishes,” Nathan said. “I try to wake up at 8 every morning so I have time to cook eggs and toast bread, brush my teeth, play a quick round of video games and just overall get ready for a technology filled day.”
Nathan also makes sure to take his dog Mochi outside for a bit everyday to get some fresh air after being at home.
“Sometimes about 5-10 minutes before class ends, he busts through my door and starts spinning in circles to tell me ‘it’s time to go!’” Nathan said.
For some students, crafting a routine to follow has been useful for keeping themselves productive. Kevin H. ’23 has structured his days loosely to allow for experimentation of hobbies but also enough time to complete schoolwork. His mornings and early afternoons are reserved for homework and chores which leaves the evening for casual activities.
“Each day I try to make sure I do a lot of different things ranging from school work, playing music, getting exercise, reading, or playing video games with my friends,” Kevin said. “This way I don’t get bored and feel like there are different things to look forward to each day.”
As part of their routine, students are keeping active while cooped up at home. Clay spends his time at the local pool to exercise, while Abby, Laura, and Adam take advantage of their San Francisco neighborhoods to go on walks or jogs.
“My house is in a pretty good location,” Laura said. “I live close to Golden Gate Park and close to the Lands End Trail so we’re able to walk a bit more in nature.”
Nathan has really focused on his athleticism during this time, following advice from Nueva basketball coach Barry Treseler who emailed the athletes with a message of: “Rather than falling out of shape this might be a time to get into even better shape.” He’s made it his “mission” to keep active everyday.
“I’ve always considered myself an athlete, but I didn’t exercise consistently during normal school,” Nathan said. “With more time I’ve made sure I’m doing at least something everyday, rather than spurts of exercising every few days. I’ve kept a record of what exercise I’ve done for each day since April 1, and I don’t want to break my streak.”
With some parents asked to work from home during the crisis, the shelter in place order has provided many opportunities to spend time together. Adam’s family set up a projector screen in their backyard to watch movies and have already seen Jojo Rabbit, Knives Out, and most recently The Lighthouse. Molly has been working through the Netflix show Elite in Spanish with her father, and Huxley M. ’23 has been exercising with his family during lunch.
“Being able to spend more time with my family has been one of the upsides of the situation,” Huxley said. “We have started doing exercise together, and having more family meals.”
Seniors are enjoying the extra time with family before they head off to college in the fall.
“I can spend more time with my family before I go off to college,” Maya said. She’s been watching London theater plays together with her family along with finishing jigsaw puzzles.
Clay enjoys spending time with his brother who’s home from college and Madeline has taken the time with her family as a break from the bustle of school life.
“I feel high school was so rushed all the time,” Madeline said. “So having a semester home in close proximity is nice.”
But ultimately during this time Madeline, like other seniors, has been thinking about the past four years and the position they’re in today.
“[I’ve been] doing a lot of reflecting on what’s important to me,” Madeline said. “I just remind myself that as long as my family and I are healthy, we should be really grateful.”
Illustration by Alyssa L. ’21