A New Take on a Family Tradition

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A New Take on a Family Tradition


Kirk Kleinsasser, SPS Chapter Secretary and Past Chapter President (2020–21), Lycoming College

For an afternoon each semester, the Lycoming College SPS chapter and physics faculty gather for a family-style picnic and an afternoon of games. Hosted by our department chair in his home, this event is a highlight of the semester. Everyone enjoys the chance to relax and de-stress in a warm and welcoming environment, and it’s also an opportunity to welcome new members into our physics family.

Unfortunately, the last few semesters have been highly unusual. In 2020, Lycoming College conducted face-to-face instruction, but extracurricular events were limited. By fall, clubs and organizations weren’t permitted to hold off-campus events due to the risk of spreading COVID-19.

We didn’t want to abandon one of our favorite bonding experiences unless absolutely necessary, so our executive board quickly decided to host the event on campus. We knew it would be challenging to plan safe and fun activities, so we started months in advance.

Lycoming had approved only institution-led events at that time, so we needed special approval to host the picnic. While approval was pending, we planned contact-free activities, stringent disinfectant and sanitary practices, and social distancing accommodations. Naturally, we required face coverings, which fell in line with our Halloween theme.

Despite our early planning, we received final approval just a few days before the event, as campus management needed to ensure that case numbers and transmission risks were sufficiently low. Our picnic was the only student-led, in-person event approved by Lycoming College for the fall.

Still, we had to make last-minute accommodations. It rained the day before the event, forcing us to move locations. We had to cancel our plans for catered food. We decided to open the event to the entire campus and didn’t have enough funding for that much food.

Even with all these challenges, our members had a blast. We were happy just to see each other face-to-face outside of class! Several of the physics faculty joined us for the afternoon, bringing candy and company. Instead of a meal, we handed out treats and hot chocolate. We played games and held a costume contest where fan favorites won Starbucks gift cards. We were especially happy that many new members joined us for the first in-person SPS event of the year.

Lycoming College SPS members enjoy socializing outside of class at the 2020 fall picnic. Photos courtesy of the chapter.

Lycoming College SPS members enjoy socializing outside of class at the 2020 fall picnic. Photos courtesy of the chapter.

SPS leaders from Lycoming College pose for a COVID-19-safe group photo. Photo by Mitch Wheary, Lycoming College.

With off-campus events allowed again, Lycoming College SPS members visit a local park for stargazing. Photo courtesy of the chapter.

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