Learning During a Pandemic: A Challenge-A-Day
Weeks 8 and 9. This blog is updated daily - usually each evening (Pacific time).
There are challenges I have endeavored to write for my grandchildren (14, 16, 17), geared to middle school/high school. The questions may have relevance beyond, and I've shared them as well with neighbors, friends, and relatives, encouraging them to be distributed to those who may find them challenging, engaging, and beneficial during these perilous times. I know some of the questions have been adapted for a 4-year old in Chicago, for a fifth-grade class in Oakland CA, working online, and for a college class in New Haven, as well as for several children who are being home-schooled during this hiatus of normalcy. Several adults have enjoyed them as well! Some of the challenges will work to generate dinner table conversations, too!
Although numbered by week/day, the challenges may be used in no particular order (except those for which there is a sequential question). Each one is designed to take 1-2 hours; collectively, they are intended to be interdisciplinary, and to stimulate creative and critical thinking. Some require Internet research, or use of iPhone/Android or iPad. Kids may work together or separately, and they may call an adult or other friend for clarification or to discuss search strategies. The hints might be offered as a second step.
For weeks 1-5, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/24/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day
For weeks 6-7, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/29/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Email email@example.com
Berkeley, CA © Carol Bier, 2020 - Please circulate to whoever might benefit. Stay healthy!
Day 1. Marking time - Today we embark on Week 9, Day 1. How many ways can you mark time? Write a (long) list! Describe the difference between a digital clock and an analogue clock. What information is conveyed by each? What is the significance of the circle of an analogue clock? How do we measure time? [Hint - it is not base 10!!!].
Day 2. States’ rights in our federal system of government - can you do some quick research using Google, and write an essay about these tensions during the pandemic and sheltering-in-place orders? Ask if you need some guidance! Start with reading the US Constitution and the Tenth Amendment while thinking about this question.
Day 3. Visualization - do you know the meaning of this word? If not, look it up. How often during the day do you visualize what you are about to do? Is it in color? Does it have sound? What are some other cognitive processes? (Look that up, too, if you are unfamiliar with the term). How would you consider visualization to differ from dreaming? Imagining?
Day 4. "Going viral" - write an essay on how what we've experienced in the last two-three months has given new (old) meaning to this term, which we had come to know in the context of social media.
Day 5. Reopening schools and camps - On May 14 the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) issued guidelines for reopening six sectors of American society -- schools, workplaces, restaurants and bars, youth programs and camps, childcare centers, and mass transit. Read the guidelines (one page each) for schools and camps, and see what you think. Do the recommendations seem appropriate? Reasonable? Sufficiently cautious? What might you suggest to improve them?
Weekend challenge: Read this article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the abuse of data in mathematical modeling and data visualization. Write an essay addressing what might be the motivations that underlie this ineffective visualization of data. Hmm - no sooner did I post this than the link was taken down.
Here's a substitution for this challenge: An editorial posted today in The Lancet, one of the most respected medical journals in the world, blasts the incoherent response of our federal government to the pandemic. Read the editorial and write an essay commenting of the concerns it expresses. Do you agree or disagree?
Additional weekend challenge: Michael Pollan, a brilliant food journalist, has written about the fragility of our food supply in the face of COVID-19. The article is only about five pages, but packed with insights and reflections on intersections of politics and economics that put us all at risk. Write an essay discussing the intersections he reveals concerning efficiency - resilience - ethics - transportation - public health. Here is his article:
The Sickness in Our Food Supply, The New York Review of Books (June 11, 2020)
For additional challenges, send me your suggestions! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Day 1. What does your immune system do for you? Why is it important for your health? How might you boost your immune system to maximize what it can do to keep you healthy? Name ten things you could do. Which are you most likely to do? Which not? Why? [Hint: See https://www.harvard.health.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system]
Day 2. Time is...well, just what is time? What is your perception of time during this pandemic? Is it slow/slower? Is it fast/faster? Is it eternal? Is it accelerated? Has it stopped? Write a short essay on your experience of time while you are sheltering in place.
Day 3. Routines - Now that we're in the middle of Week 8 of sheltering-in-place, do you feel a sense of new 'normalcy' even if only temporary? Do you have some new daily or weekly routines you now follow? What are they? What remains the same?
Day 4. Reflections - Read five or six essays by members of the community at the Graduate Theological Union, where I am a research scholar, GTU Voices. Which of these reflections speak to you? Do any of them make you think differently or open your mind to a new perspective? Write an essay that might open up your world to others.
Day 5. Collage - Make a collage using fabric or paper and glue, or digital media, to express or depict something that you've observed or thought about during this period of quarantine. Or, alternatively, make a mask like those worn by healers during the bubonic plague, four hundred years ago in Europe. Here's a link for inspiration: http://www.atlasobscura.com/
Weekend challenge: Do you know what phase of the moon we are in? We are beginning Day 17 of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, 9th month of the lunar calendar. All months of the lunar year begin with the sighting of the new moon. We just passed, two days ago, a spectacular lunar event - the rising of a supermoon. What is a supermoon? Why is it so special? What is it that causes it to appear so large to us earthlings?
Additional weekend challenge: Define the terms antibodies, contact-testing, plasma, immunity, vaccine, cure, therapeutic treatment. Write a paragraph explaining their relationship in the context of COVID-19. What is the difference between a vaccine, a cure, and a therapeutic treatment? Why does a vaccine take so long to produce? See New York Times opinion piece with interesting graphic, How Long Will a Vaccine Really Take?.