The first recorded prom consisting of dining and dancing was held in 1894, and since then, this 126-year-old idea has become a popular high school tradition in many countries around the world. The 2020 pandemic that has closed schools around the world has also stopped the music of proms and the promenades of high school juniors and seniors sporting their tuxedos and gowns. School leaders are now rethinking what prom could look like in the era of COVID-19 and social distancing.
Fortunately, some of our educational colleagues have been holding virtual proms for years and we can take a few lessons from their playbook. Monte Westfall is the director of the largest Virtual School in Kansas (LVS (opens in new tab)), with 1,200 students. LVS students are spread across the state, with some temporarily residing out-of-state or country, making in-person attendance at a prom unattainable. In order to create a meaningful experience for them, Westfall and his staff have looked beyond the traditional dining and dancing to leverage online activities that appeal to students.
LVS has utilized the following ideas to create great virtual experiences for students not able to attend a live prom.
The theme this year was the Roaring 20’s. Via Zoom, we will have slides for students depicting images from the 1920’s. Zoom is great for using breakout rooms, which is something we frequently do in our classes on a daily basis. Our main room would have music going and be our virtual dance party, such as the virtual prom John Krasinski recently hosted!
If you have an online school server, you can also host a Minecraft breakout room. Here are great resources (opens in new tab) for offering a coding room.
We also offer a special breakout room for our LGBTQ student community, a special group of students who may feel particularly isolated during this time.
Jeopardy (opens in new tab) is another fun idea for students.
Just because you can’t share physical space doesn’t mean that you can’t make memories! We have a variety of options for our students, and our goal is to make it fun, engaging, and memorable.
I know that you are all working hard to make the end of this school year as special as possible. Best wishes to you all as we navigate these uncertain times.
Monte Westfall is the Director of Virtual Education for the Lawrence Virtual School (LVS) in Lawrence, KS. LVS serves students throughout the state of Kansas. Monte has been with LVS for 7 years now.
Jerri Kemble has been involved in virtual education for over a decade. Kemble founded the Kansas Online Learning Program in 2010. In 2013, she began working with Lawrence Virtual School as Assistant Superintendent of Schools. She was invited to the White House on two occasions to discuss virtual education with Vice President Biden’s education team.