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St. Joseph the Worker celebrated virtually at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School

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After nearly two months of e-learning, students at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School in Woodbridge were invited to participate in virtual Crusader Day — a spirit day named after the school mascot, a crusader.


“I thought the school should do something fun to help keep the sense of community going since the students don’t get to see one another daily anymore,” said Sister Mary Sheila Maksim, principal and a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia. “We all needed a break, and in a time of isolation, we needed to bring people together in an event that was joyful, unifying and uplifting.”


The school used a combination of different technologies to achieve a “game show” atmosphere for the event. Directions for each activity were posted on a Google form, but not until it was time to start the race; live Zoom meetings allowed students to see which grade was leading each challenge via a pie chart that populated  in real time as the results came in. The start of races was announced throughout the day using the school emergency phone system.

crusader day dsa

Seventh grader Marianne (left) and fifth grader Sarah D'Sa watch as the results from one of the competitions come in during St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School’s virtual Crusader Day May 1. COURTESY


“I felt like a game show host all day,” said Sister Mary Sheila.


“We would never normally use the school’s emergency phone system for this purpose,” she said. “This event will probably be a one-time-only coronavirus special activity.”


In addition to activities such as a trivia contest, challenges for doing activities at home such as cleaning a room or playing a board game with family, and a scavenger hunt, there was a build-a-chair competition that began a week before the May 1 event. Every class from pre-K to eighth grade was invited to build a chair that could be made from any material, support a seated person and was a student’s original concept.


Almost 50 families entered the competition, with 14 entries winning categories such as “Best Lego chair,” “Most Dominican chair” and “Most creative chair.”


“Some families did the contest as a group project, and there was a nearly 20 percent participation from the total number of families in an optional project, which was a nice surprise” said Pamela Howser, development specialist. “This pandemic is a struggle for parents as well as the kids. Doing something like this as a family event can be a parent-child bonding moment,” she said.


The school’s mission is “Faith and Reason,” and the chair competition “is a perfect example of how a STEM activity and our Catholic faith go together,” said Sister Mary Sheila. “This was a way to relate and honor St. Joseph. There was some real creativity and carpentry too in the responses, and I think this made St. Joseph happy,” she said.


Prizes were awarded throughout the day for students and teachers, with the most coveted prize being a day off school — with no e-learning. The seventh-grade class took the prize.


Rausch can be reached at stacy.rausch@catholicherald.com.


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020