Updated: May 30, 2021
PREPARING THE MAKSCI COMMUNITY FOR THE NEW NORMAL, the school’s official Facebook page hosted a series of webinars as well as discussions on mental health and coping with the repercussions of COVID-19. Accommodating speakers ranging from several model students, exemplary faculty, and esteemed professionals, these forums provide its audiences enriching talks, interactive ventures, and open forums giving viewers chances to consult knowledgeable personnel on their queries. Since its kick-off on the 19th of June, the series continues to cultivate students, parents, and learning facilitators of various communities by elucidating topics relevant to online learning transition and surmounting hurdles brought about by the pandemic.
Bayanihan 2020: Brigada Eskwela Kick-off
Led by key officials in the Department of Education (DepEd), Government of Makati, and MakSci, the Brigada Eskwela seminar highlighted and discussed the various changes that will be implemented in the upcoming academic year. DepEd presented the five guidelines of their “Basic Education – Learning Continuity Plan,” and how it will affect students, teachers, and parents during the pandemic.
Explained in the seminar are the different modes of learning (referred to as “learning modalities”) proposed by DepEd: physical learning, distance learning, and blended learning. The city government also discussed how it will enact the plan and address any issues that may arise. In conjunction with the City of Makati, the school presented its plan for the new academic year in line with the guidelines set by DepEd.
DepEd also presented its slogan Bayanihan sa Paaralan, and urged students, teachers, and parents to make a collaborative effort for online learning in the Philippines to succeed. They also stated that despite numerous setbacks, they have no choice but to continue forward with online learning, aiming to “help whoever they can.”
Casting Out Corona: Disease Characteristics of COVID-19 and Prevention Through Proper Hygiene
In the midst of a life-threatening pandemic, speaker Rafael Vincent M. Manalo sought to shed light on information and misconceptions about COVID-19.
As an integrated clinical clerk and MD-PhD candidate at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, he discussed important background information about the virus. He explained its origins, why it is labeled COVID-19, and the possible effects it can have on the human body. He also enumerated symptoms, how to tell when somebody has COVID-19 and needs medical attention, and how the virus is transmitted.
Afterwards, he differentiated relevant terms that are used interchangeably, but have separate and distinct meanings: sterilization, disinfection, antisepsis, and sanitization. He also showed various antiseptics used and their effectiveness at killing harmful microorganisms. Together with this, Rafael taught appropriate hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of the virus, including proper handwashing techniques.
To end the discussion, he elaborated on the term “flattening the curve,” a term used heavily by media outlets and medical institutions. He explained that the “curve” represented the number of coronavirus cases over time, and that if the curve is too high, medical institutions will not have the capacity to deal with the flood of cases.
He hoped that by sharing vital information on the deadly virus and how to prevent its spread, people will be able to contribute to “flattening the curve” and be able to pave the way towards the end of the pandemic.
Hazard Awareness: First Step for DRRM
School Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Coordinator Ernell Placido urged that people must be aware of other possible hazards that may happen in the community. His webinar focused on how one can be prepared by following the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management guidelines.
He began by defining key terms used in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management. This includes “hazard,” “disaster,” and “disaster risk,” among many others. He also expounded on factors that may affect what decisions and plans must be made to prepare for disasters.
He then listed ways on how one can identify and prepare for hazards in their community.
Reading Essentials in the New Normal
Aimed at enhancing skills in reading comprehension to prepare for the new online learning setup, the webinar was led by Schools Division Office Isabela Learning Facilitator Milagros Cusion Mabini.
In her talk, Mabini enumerated the most essential learning competencies in each year level, and layed out the skills that lead to critical reading. She regarded readers as text detectives that examine evidence, gather facts, and collect information to arrive at sound inferences, akin to police detectives.
Moreover, the viewers engaged in interactive reading comprehension questions as the webinar went on. This activity enhanced the reading skills of the participants, showing evident misses in some answers, relaying concepts behind the right discernment, and correcting comprehension mistakes.
Rediscovering your Green Thumb in the New Normal
To have an additional source of food and income, Johanna Lyn Inocencio, an Agribusiness advocate, showcased hydroponics and its benefits during the pandemic.
Discussed during the webinar were the basics of hydroponics, beginning with its definition; a method of growing plants without soil, using an inert medium instead of soil to support the root system. The speaker then listed the advantages and disadvantages of hydroponics, stating that it required a heavy starting cost, but was easy to maintain and provided decent income.
She then provided a list of the materials needed to set up a basic hydroponics farm (referred to as “SNAP Hydroponics”). She taught how to set up and maintain a hydroponics farm, and showed a chart listing the expenses and return of investment from a simple set-up.
Know Your Netiquette
The excessive contact or sharing of information through the internet, also known as digital crowding, threatens the privacy and security of millions of internet users nowadays.
Netiquette—a combination of internet usage and etiquette—is a key practice in online interaction to be able to prevent this threat.
According to Marjorie Gomban Youngblood, there are four major factors concerning netiquette; namely: identification, writing messages, posting of photos, and sharing of information.
In the webinar, Youngblood talked about the importance of proper usernames to avoid misleading identification and bad impressions, especially since it is how people first present themselves in cyberspace. Moreover, she reminded viewers of the gravity of observing mindfulness to the decency of what they are messaging, posting, and sharing; evaluating beforehand if the content may be degrading, inflammatory, or invading privacy.
Furthermore, she encouraged everyone to refrain from sharing sensationalist and conspiratorial news to avoid the perpetuation of fake news. As displayed in her presentation, it is encouraged to read beyond the piece and consult an expert like a librarian or a fact checking site to verify the information.
In the words of Youngblood, “If what I'm going to share will not make other people learn from me, not have positive reactions, or not make them inspired enough to do better, then maybe what I'm going to share is not good enough.”
#TrashTALKS for the Better
On the 20th of August, the school Supreme Student Government (SSG) President Kurt Quiambao invited Angeles City Science High School - Senior High School SSG Director Chito Arceo Jr., Philippine Science High School - Main Campus Debate Society Co-captain David Dylan Mencias, Bicol Regional Senior High School President Dustin Sy, and Rizal National Science High School SSG President Minelli Cinco, along with Commission on Population and Development Commissioner Dexter Galban and Youth for Mental Health Coalition Founder Raymond John Naguit, to talk about the rising popularity of “Trash Talk” groups on Facebook.
“These [Trash Talk] groups may be considered as an outlet for people to express what they're feeling in perspectives not easily translated into formal conversations,” Galban said. He added that it was made out of the need of people to have a sense of belonging, especially in the current pandemic situation where an informal platform to find a community to interact with is sought for.
According to Naguit, who is also the National Chairperson of Akbayan Youth, although these groups are labeled in a negative manner, the process of informal discussion circulating in them gives insight and knowledge to its participants. He said that it may serve as a gateway for the younger generations to deeper forms of engagement, and to take part in extensive topics such as political issues.
However, Galban said that these groups may reinforce stigmas communities are constantly trying to break, and also highlight stereotypes and prejudices.“It is important to have an avenue for freedom of expression of other people, as well as ensure that we protect the rights of other people so they’re not affected in a negative way on a personal basis,” he added.
The speakers emphasized that there should be particular limits as to how people convey messages, in hopes that reprehensions in these groups would be used as a stimulus to catalyze positive changes moving forward.
Rethinking Children’s Rights in the Digital Age
Two years ago, a study conducted by the European Council, along with United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other stakeholders, showed that the rights of children to information, education, freedom, privacy, well-being, and protection against harm is substantially reinvented in line with the advancement of technology.
Christina Lopez, program officer of the Foundation for Media Alternatives, stressed the evolving needs of children, as well as the risks and vulnerabilities they have with their participation in cyberspace, in a webinar conducted on July 29.
With the introduction of remote online classes in the Philippines, Lopez explained that the rights of children to information technology and education are refined by the fact that in this day and age, internet connection and gadgets are not just a luxury, but a necessity to all. However, she adds that while we have the right to access information, we also face some risk to encounter misinformation; and it is easy for children who are not knowledgeable how to explore what is right and wrong information to spread false data without validating the content.
Moreover, she talked about how children are exposed to bizarre standards on social media. With the tendency of today’s youth to desire keeping up with the current trends, this exposure causes a spike in cyberbullying and mental health problems, especially anxiety and depression rates.
The webinar also highlighted how the start of the pandemic caused a rise in cybercrime, wherein five to seven cases are reported each day, excluding ones stated to and by the media. Many minors are exploited in ways such as receiving messages with sensitive content and being used in child pornography, oftentimes sending nude photos in exchange for material things.
The speaker urged parents to have a discussion with their children, educating them and nurturing their understanding of internet usage, while considering filtering and blocking content that could cause harm. Nevertheless, Lopez reminded parents that they should respect boundaries in regards to monitoring their children. In addition, she told “stage parents” to be mindful of posts concerning their child. Data privacy breaches lavish in social media, and excessive sharing of content may result in their child’s discordant dissemination of personal data, stalking, blackmail, and identity theft.
In hopes that knowledge on Child Online Protection was concisely disseminated in this webinar, a holistic approach to respond to all potential threats and harms children and young people may encounter online will be put into work.
Preparations for the New Normal
To help parents adapt to a new online learning environment at home, a webinar was conducted involving a plethora of parenting tips and useful information that can help online learning take off at home.
Guest speakers Maleng Raysag, head of PMC Business Systems Inc., and Clarissa Segismundo, Education Programs lead at Microsoft Inc., both shared their insights on the state of parents during the pandemic.
They stated that in this new “digital age,” children are “digital natives”; they grew up with technology in their everyday lives and are adept at using and incorporating it into their routines. On the other hand, adults are “digital immigrants”; having grown up in a world before the technological boom, they are not used to technology and much prefer the “traditional” way of doing things.
The speakers believed that this divide between children and adults will be a problem for online learning. To combat this, they helped parents become familiar with technology; they taught various computer applications that will be used in online learning. They also introduced skills that children can master, along with healthy eating habits, during quarantine.
By helping parents understand the benefits and functions of technology, the speakers hoped that this will lead to a healthier learning environment for both the students and the parents.
Coping With COVID
In order to adapt to the current pandemic situation, where mental health has taken a toll due to reduced physical contact, steps to stronger mental state were taught by the guest speaker, Madeleine Vienne Cosico, in a webinar on mental health.
Cosico urges viewers to limit exposure to social media, as it damages mental health. She added that social media apps are deleted in her phone to avoid contact with them. She said that focusing on facts and limiting interaction with toxic people will be for the better as toxic people are not worth the time and can take a toll on people’s well-being.
Furthermore, she debunked common productivity myths as she stated that it doesn’t matter if someone is a morning person or a vampire, because one’s productivity is not matched by the time consumed by working on something, but by the quality of the labor. However, she also said that cramming things isn’t sustainable, and constantly burning oneself out isn’t healthy as well.
Displaying self compassion for a lack of productivity isn’t a bad thing, as portrayed in the webinar. Societal pressures demanding people to move should be disregarded, as no two timings are the same.
Stress Management, Quarantine Edition
As the time spent indoors due to the pandemic grows larger, Lot Lumawig, a psychologist and co-founder of the Message-a-Friend group on Facebook, shared a few ways on how to manage stress and cope with anxiety at home. Her seminar focused on self-reflection and self-action, what people can do to relieve themselves of negative emotions that can severely affect them during quarantine.
She discussed the factors that contribute to stress, how stress develops, and how it affects both the human mind and body. She also elaborated on how the mind develops in different stages, which helped explain how the minds of teenagers work, why they make irrational decisions, and why they seem to be very indecisive.
“We must learn to let go of things that do not matter in life,” she said. She focused on a contradicting behavior that most people tend to have: to focus on irrational matters and cause unnecessary stress. She stated that in order for people to move on, they must let go of thinking about matters that are out of their control. Instead, people must focus on themselves and what they can do to better their situation.
The speaker ended the seminar with a few tips to help relieve stress and anxiety, such as breathing in and out or reading a book. She added that there are many ways to reduce stress in life and that there is always a way forward.
Mental Health Awareness and Helping Others Through Psychological First Aid
Marian Copina, a registered guidance counselor and teacher at Rizal Elementary School, stressed the importance of looking after the mental health of loved ones during the pandemic. In her seminar, she talked about Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, its importance, and how to practice it at home.
She began by explaining key concepts related to the topic. She defined important terms in mental health and showed a visual representing different states of mental health (referred to as the Mental Health Continuum Model), along with the appropriate actions to take at each stage.
The role of educational institutions during the pandemic was elaborated as well. The speaker showed how educational institutions can help safeguard the mental health of students through mental health seminars and guidance counselling.
Then, she discussed psychological first aid by explaining its definition and giving examples. She reiterated that psychological first aid is something that can be done by anyone, but is not the same as psychological counseling; hence, it has its limitations. She continued by enumerating different coping responses and adaptations that people go through brought about by stress. She urged that both parents and children alike must be aware of these signs, and that they should practice psychological first aid to contribute towards a safer and friendlier environment in the future.
Optimism in Crisis
Last July, a webinar tackling a positive outlook during difficult times perpetuated on the official page to be able to uplift the spirit of the Maksci community.
Led by Coach Jann Raymart Tangtang of Every Nation Campus, the webinar addressed how practicing putting one’s mind into finding pleasure in small moments throughout the day and consciously acknowledging each of them is a starting step to a positive outlook.
“Consider taking micro goals that you can achieve in the certain timeline, and then increasing it to another level after reaching the small goal,” Coach Tangtang stated. He insinuated that big journeys always start with a single step, and it is easier to achieve and follow through one step at a time rather than fixating on a whole journey.
However, the speaker explained that without faith, one’s object of optimism may be put on achievable things that, when attained, people lose something to look forward to. Hence, he indicated the importance of faith and God’s presence in future situations.
Thriving Through Difficult Times
As aid to the stress and difficulty many experience during these trying times, a webinar sharing words of gospel to help in prospering amidst hardship was conducted.
In the course of the webinar, Pastor Paulo Punzalan, senior pastor of Victory Fort, spoke of the story of David. He pointed out that although robbed of all possessions, including daily members, David gained strength from God. Similarly, the pandemic has taken several things such as strength, freedom to go to places, privileges to see family and friends, career, and lives, he added.
“Worship magnifies God and shrinks our circumstances to its proper size,” Pastor Punzalan said, implying that focusing on the stressful situation causes challenges to seem bigger than they actually are. Additionally, he advocated having people to connect with, as it alleviates tough times, kindred to oak trees staying despite storms because of their intricate root system.