• Cypress Bay High School - Weston, FL
  • January 26, 2021


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Kicking off a new school year, many students at the Bay have returned with new hobbies they picked up during quarantine. Senior Kiran Raja said being able to take time to develop her embroidery skills has allowed her to grow as a person, and she has continued to practice it during the school year.

“Embroidery [has] helped me collect myself at the end of the day and make plans in a calm environment where it is not too anxious because it is hands-on,” Raja said. “I feel it is important how I have learned to be more calm, happy and present and just appreciate everything a bit more.” 

Junior Bryce Lin started playing “Among Us,” an online multiplayer social deduction game available in app stores and popularized over YouTube and TikTok since June. He said his new pastime has allowed him to not only build on his social life during a time of physical isolation but also further his skill set. 

“‘Among Us’ connects to my social well-being, as I haven’t done much due to coronavirus [COVID-19], and this is a way to catch up with the crew,” Lin said. “I have also learned how to manipulate people slightly better.”

Similar to Lin, junior Katerina Garkova said she drew inspiration for her new bug-keeping hobby from YouTube. She said if it had not been for all the free time in quarantine, she would not have seen the videos that convinced her to buy her praying mantises, Chloris and Delores, on eBay.

“I have never even thought about bringing bugs into my house on purpose before,” Garkova said. “However, I saw many videos about people keeping mantises as pets, and every single person who talked about them said they were amazing to keep.”

Raja said her grandmother’s passing due to COVID-19 in June ultimately convinced her to take up embroidery. She said her grandmother was the one who taught her how to embroider, sew and knit years ago, and the desire to keep her memory alive combined with ample time from quarantine to incentivized her to relearn embroidery. 

“I’ve taken this up for the memory of [my grandmother] and to renew the skills I had learned in my childhood,” Raja said. “I also had so much time on my hands, and it was a skill I could do within my house safely during quarantine.”

On the other hand, AICE English and Creative Writing teacher Shawntee Herring said she did not have this same time advantage as an educator. She said the duty of maintaining three email inboxes, two instructional platforms and additional programs such as Microsoft Word, OneDrive, Google Docs, Noredink.com, Vocabulary.com and Nearpod during the transition to virtual learning has been demanding.

“It takes endurance to look at a computer screen for ten or so hours a day,” Herring said. “My eyes burn and my head hurts, and it makes me grade slower than if I was grading physical papers.”

Herring said despite this, she still had the same number of essays and writing assignments to grade, as well as the same baseline schedule of four AICE Classes, two Creative Writing classes and two clubs. In light of the added pressures of virtual learning, she said she urges fellow instructors to press on.

“There should [be] less distraction without kids in front of you, right? Wrong; the demand to constantly do enrichment on the digital platforms is grueling,” Herring said. “That’s why I advise teachers to be patient, ask for help, only use what they need and remember communication between faculty and students is vital.”

Garkova said her bug keeping hobby best reflects the responsible side of her personality. She said she conducted extensive preliminary research, made the appropriate nutritional purchases and shelter arrangements beforehand and continues to look after the praying mantises by feeding them every other day and misting and cleaning their enclosure just as often. 

“The trait emulated here is my ability to be capable and responsible because this is necessary for taking care of a living being,” Garkova said. “Cleaning the enclosure on its own is time consuming.”

Meanwhile, Raja said her efforts at carrying her embroidery hobby into the school year have expressed her night owl tendencies. She said this has also revealed her capacity for prioritizing the pursuits most important to her within the timeframe she is given.

“The best part is I will stay up all night if I have to, if it means I’m doing something I like, like embroidery,” Raja said. “Also, you have a lot [of] time that could be spent scrolling through Instagram to [do] something that in the end will give you a physical item to appreciate.”

Lin said playing Among Us reveals his interest in critical thinking. He said although the five people minimum required to launch a game can sometimes be inconvenient, the incorporation of problem-solving skills during it makes the game enjoyable overall.

“My favorite part of this hobby is you get to use lies and deceit,” Lin said. “Using lies is the only way to win, and it makes me feel like a sneaky schnitzel, as I get to play as an impostor, spread misinformation and deceive everyone.”

Garkova said her favorite part of her new hobby is to observe and interact with her praying mantises up close. Although she said it can be troublesome to attain food supply quickly, she recommends all who are interested in bug-keeping to keep an eye on fly cultures, the stores of fruit flies for the praying mantises to eat, to prevent them from running out as soon as they die. 

“My favorite part of this hobby is how cool the bugs look,” Garkova said. “I also love the way it tickles when I let them crawl on my hand and drink from the water droplets on my finger.”

Raja said her number one piece of advice for people who are seeking to incorporate embroidering into their lives is to do their research and to reuse existing clothing to make it cost-effective. She also said she recommends staying patient and understanding mistakes are only a part of the process.

I know accumulating all [the materials] can be expensive at the end, but I would definitely look into it and get the most for your buck,” Raja said. “It can be annoying and excruciating at times if the knot gets into the thread while embroidering, too, but you are going to learn and see your improvement over time, because not everything is going to be perfect.”

Overall, Garkova said she would recommend her hobby as a safe and non demanding diversion for anyone who is interested in insects and would like to take care of another living being. She said praying mantises, in particular, are a good species to start with as well.

“Their behavior is so interesting to look at, and they can’t harm humans in any way so you can just let them walk on you without any worry,” Garkova said. “If you are a fan of bug keeping, praying mantises [are] a must; they are overall just one of the best [types of] pet bugs you could own.”