In the three years since schools first shut down and learning went remote for three months due to COVID-19, students and schools have weathered lots of change. Online classes, temperature checks, and frequent absences became the new normal.
While schools eventually reopened and normalcy began to creep back, many students, teachers, and staff continued to carry the stress and trauma of the pandemic through multiple waves of variants.
COVID-19 continues to impact people worldwide, and it is important to recognize this disruption. Acknowledging the pandemic’s mental, physical, and societal effects allowed the CA community to participate in a healing event: Project Hope.
Project Hope was a K–12 literacy project that challenged students and staff to reflect on the COVID-19 journey through a personal writing exercise. It was a collaborative project between physician, photographer, and current CA parent, Dr. Heather Patterson, and the Calgary Academy community.
Nearly 400 students and staff created writing pieces in response to photographs taken by Dr. Patterson that centred around the question: “how might we reflect on the past to inspire HOPE for the future and bring our community back together?” Calgary Academy Principal Tim Carlson remembers the impact this project had on the school.
“Project Hope was a historical moment for not just the school, but the community at large… We could have shut the door on COVID-19 and moved on, but that’s not a healthy approach to learning.” – Mr. Carlson
One student, in particular, was affected heavily by both the pandemic and Project Hope. CA student Hannah R. Both her parents are doctors who worked long hours to care for patients, and her mother is also the photographer of the Project Hope initiative. COVID-19 crept into their home life, and Hannah remembers being away from her friends and her mom working long hours. She says the experience was “tough.”
Inspired by her mom’s photographs, Hannah’s work for Project Hope was a writing piece on her experience with the pandemic and how it affected her family, friends, and school. Having the whole school community view her mom’s photographs was surreal.
“It felt pretty cool. I’m proud of my mom.”
Project Hope finished with a school-wide walk through the halls, viewing the different pieces everyone created. Mr. Carlson appreciates the emotions this project brought out and how it helped students and staff heal through art.
“Whether it was a poem that a student wrote or an experience of someone losing a loved one, all of that came out in a heartfelt, positive, but heart-wrenching way. It was the rawness of putting pen to paper and saying, ‘this is how I’m feeling—this is what these photos remind me of.’”
As the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 public health measures concluding, watch the Project Hope reflection video to remember how far we’ve come as a school and a community.