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14-Day Drawing Challenge Helps Maintain a Sense of Connection Amid Prolonged Social Distancing
- “You need space, but you also need connections.” - Schools and workplaces have closed and people are staying at home around the globe. Governments across the world have urged their people to keep a distance from others as a measure to slow the spread of the pandemic. With the Korean government’s decision to extend the intensive social distancing campaign until at least April 19, people in Korea are advised to avoid nonessential trips, public facilities, and social gatherings for another two weeks or so. This unprecedented prolonged social distancing drive leads people to feel fatigue and frustration. Such emotional stress is worse for those who live alone in a foreign country. The International Scholar and Student Services (ISSS) Team at KAIST has been working around the clock to build a dedicated COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service to support the university’s international community on campus and abroad and help get them connected online. As the COVID-19 situation lingers, there has been a growing demand for mental health support from many KAIST international members including 299 students who have been staying in Korea on their own and away from their families, as well as from those who could not return to campus from their overseas homes. In response to this, the KAIST ISSS Team has been offering some special online events and programs that can help the KAIST international community stay feeling connected whereever they are, while still keeping a safe distance from each other. For instance, the team is running an art-therapy program called ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge’ March 30 through April 12. This program is online and individual-based, so it does not require any physical contact between participants. Each participant is asked to draw a picture at home using the daily topics previously set by the ISSS Team over 14 days. The topics include (Day 1) self-portrait, (Day 2) spring flowers, (Day 3) if you could become anything…, (Day 4) funniest memory you have, (Day 5) animals at KAIST, (Day 6) something you love, (Day 7) country or city you want to visit, (Day 8) what’s for dinner? (Day 9) person you miss, (Day 10) your favorite place at KAIST, (Day 11) your feeling today, (Day 12) things in your favorite color, (Day 13) song lyrics, and (Day 14) your future self in 10 years. Once all 14 pieces have been completed, submissions can be made online by sending an e-mail to the ISSS Team after scanning or taking a photo of each drawing. Selected submissions will be awarded small prizes for participation and shared through the university’s official website and SNS channels. “All the participants need is paper, coloring tools, and their creativity and imagination. They don’t have to be a great artist to join this challenge. There is no right or wrong or good or bad. They just need to have fun drawing every day for two weeks, ease their coronavirus anxiety, and remain emotionally stable just like they did back in the normal days,” said Su-yeon Ahn, the manager of the KAIST ISSS Team. She added, “In times like these, you need space, but you also need connections. Our team wants our international students, professors, and researchers to build strong connections with each other, even online.” Katherine Michelle Pena Santana, an M.S. candidate from the Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering who is taking part in ‘The 14-day Drawing Challenge,’ looked back and said, “Lately with the new coronavirus spreading around Korea and the entire world, I was feeling very anxious. I didn't get out of my room and lived by just looking at the same walls and creating some kind of a psychological burden on myself.” Santana added that these kinds of activities could give many foreign members of KAIST an opportunity to not only relieve fear and stress, but also share each other’s experiences dealing with this pandemic. She explained that this is why she decided to participate in this challenge. An undergraduate student from the Department of Physics, Ada Carpenter, appreciated the KAIST ISSS Team’s efforts to provide a variety of special online mental health support services to help the university’s international community socialize, while strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing. She expressed excitement about participating and said, “I’m so looking forward to the challenge of things that I wouldn’t normally draw.” < Short Self-interview Video Clip Filmed by Ada Carpenter > The COVID-19 Mental Health Support Service by the KAIST ISSS Team will be continually updated with new information and enhanced with other tools and support over the coming weeks and months. Some of the upcoming events and programs include ‘The Online Guitar Lessons’, ‘The Growing Houseplants Challenge’, and ‘The Any Song Challenge*’. * The song titled “Any Song” by Korean rapper Zico has been gaining attention on social media thanks to many celebrities taking on the ‘Any Song Challenge’, performing a short dance to the chorus of the song and sharing it on social media. (END)
COVID-19 Update: Reaching Out to Help Local Schools’ Online Classes
After the Ministry of Education decided that all schools would conduct online classes from April 9, schools began to ramp up online education tools and systems. On March 30, the Ministry announced a three-phased opening for the schools, putting online classes for third-year middle and high school students first. The online classes will expand to first and second-year middle and high schoolers and the upper grades of elementary schools on April 16, followed by first to third graders of elementary schools on April 20. Although some schools have already introduced online teaching and learning into the curriculum, most schools are still unprepared, raising concerns over possible educational disparities caused by insufficient infrastructures and a lack of training for teachers. To counter these issues, KAIST rolled up its sleeves to help teachers from 38 local middle and high schools in the Yuseong District of Daejeon better prepare for their interactive online classes by providing a special training course from April 7 through 29. Following the course, approximately 40 undergraduate and graduate students will be assigned to schools to help them set up and better utilize the online educational program. On April 3, Professor Youngsun Kwon, the Dean of KAIST Academy and the Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching, gave a two-hour online interactive tutorial session on the utilization of the real-time video conferencing platform ‘Zoom’ for online classes. He shared best practices for checking attendance, running classes, and giving and marking quizzes and assignments. A total of 102 local middle and high school teachers attended this session. “We feel very fortunate to reach out to teachers who are so passionate about learning online education methodology. We were pleasantly surprised to see this many educators show up for the tutorial session,” said Dean Kwon. He also appreciated KAIST students’ strong interests and support in the community outreach project in response to COVID-19 during these challenging times when social distancing is so critical. He said more than 150 student volunteers signed up for this project 10 hours after his office posted the opening for volunteers on the KAIST intranet. “We will help front-line school teachers, strictly following the government’s guidelines for social distancing,” he added. The students’ online class support group will provide additional help to schools that are inexperienced users of Zoom. The students will be those who are very familiar with online lectures using Zoom, and are fully acquainted with how to operate them. One or two of the students will be assigned to each school that requests support, and will directly help solve complications that stem from preparing and running the classes through online measures for safety reasons. The expenses for the support group’s activities will be fully covered by KAIST, and the period of support may be extended upon request. KAIST has been offering approximately 1,200 courses remotely since the spring semester opened on March 16 and will do so until the COVID-19 situation stabilizes. Along with the provision of pre-recorded one-way lecture contents, real-time two-way lessons are being delivered through various video conferencing platforms including Zoom, YouTube Live, and Microsoft Teams. There were both minor and major technical issues at the beginning of the semester, caused by the instability of servers and system overloads as well as from users being inexperienced with the tools and systems. However, the class procedures have gradually stabilized and are now running better. KAIST President Sung-Chul Shin said, “As the COVID-19 situation lingers, this is a more difficult time than ever, where all educational establishments and educators must quickly learn and apply new methods of education, often in insufficient preparation conditions.” He added, “KAIST will provide support for secondary schools in the region to quickly resolve the inconveniences caused by new users of online classes so that they may provide high-quality education.” (END)
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