Learning during a Pandemic - Challenge-A-Day
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! We are all in this together!
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. Hints might be offered as a second step.
Day 1. What can you do personally to effect racial equality and social justice in our country? List three steps you are willing to take towards these goals.
Day 2. Protests and politics - Read President Obama's thoughtful essay on Medium, and write a few paragraphs about the relationship of protests to politics. Think about how you might respond to the current situation.
Barack Obama, "How to Make This Moment the Turning Point for Real Change," June 1, 2020, The Medium medium.com
Day 3. Food and Immunity - Read this article from Consumer Reports, and consider what you and your parents might adjust to eat more healthful foods that will help boost your immune systems. Suggest three foods you might introduce to your diet this week. What are other means that may also protect us from coronavirus? Stay healthy!
Day 4. Presidential Primaries, June 2, 2020 - On Tuesday, June 2, there were several presidential primaries that took place across the county. Can you conduct several searches using Google (or DuckDuckGo), and figure out what happened, where, and why? Which states postponed their primaries to June 2? Which states have postponed them further, in the face of Covid-19? Who won which primaries where?
Day 5. Protests and riots - What is the difference between a protest and a riot? Explain why what we are experiencing today across our country are protests, not riots. Some are calling them rebellions. What do you think? See Mark Lamont Hill on You Tube; see also Trevor Noah on The Daily Show (here called "The Daily Social Distancing Show" in a fundraiser for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to support the cause of racial justice and equality.
George Floyd, Minneapolis Protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper, The Daily Social Distancing Show (May 29, 2020)
Weekend challenge: Eulogy for George Floyd - Rev. Al Sharpton took this tragic moment as an opportunity to address the Common Good. I think this is a speech that will go down in history. It is worth a careful listen/read.
Additional weekend challenge: Now that school is over, I'd like you to reflect on this past semester. What did you learn? How did you learn? What happened to your education? Did you enjoy online learning? What can you say you learned outside of school? How would you compare the different styles of learning you experienced this semester? How might you revise the post-pandemic school curriculum to reflect what you learned and how?
Week 11 (!)
Day 1. Today is Memorial Day. What does that mean? What is its historical significance and why is it called Memorial Day? What does Memorial Day mean to you? Does it feel the same this year, during the pandemic? If it feels different, describe how.
Day 2. Oops! I forgot to send you a challenge today -- your turn to send me one!!!
Day 3. Reopening -- If you were in charge of a municipality, or county, or state, and considering reopening businesses right now -- what questions would you be asking? What concerns would you have? Would you be thinking in terms of contingencies? How might these look? What would be your advice to those of us who are in a category of "vulnerable populations"?
Day 4. Infrastructure - What is infrastructure? Give some examples and explain why infrastructure is important to our daily lives. How is it treated politically in our country? Public health is not usually included in discussions of infrastructure. Write down a few thoughts on the role that public health might play in considerations of infrastructure.
Day 5. Mind/brain - If something is "on your mind," is it in your brain? What is the difference between your mind and your brain? Define each word carefully, and consider how they may overlap and diverge. Think of how you might draw the differences, either by diagram or sketch, or other means. You might like to look at these two articles, and particularly consider their graphics as you consider this challenge.
Larry Buchanan, "54 Ways Coronvirus Has Changed Our World," New York Times (May 27, 2020)
Olivia Goldhill, "Scientists Say Your 'Mind' Isn't Confined to Your Brain, or Even your Body," Quartz
Weekend challenge: Architecture - Think about the ways architecture and pandemics intersect. Write a thoughtful essay that considers how architecture, and the built environment, can contribute to the management of public health, or ways it hampers public health as in the case of a pandemic. [Hint: What happens in apartment buildings, elevators, playgrounds, prisons, hospitals? What about parks and gardens? Courtyards? Balconies? Hallways? Doors with or without handles? Can you think of other examples of situations or spaces that help or hinder public health?]
Additional weekend challenge: Racism and police brutality - The killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis set off protests around the country. Racism and police brutality sparked the initial protests. What other factors might you suggest contributed to the unrest that has spread to cities throughout our nation? [See several recent posts to Vox.com].
Week 10 (!)
Day 1. What kinds of food might you grow at home? @Edibleschoolyard on Instagram suggested growing greens from the cut bottoms of carrots, turnips, green onions, etc. I'm trying a few. Might you be willing to try some, too?
Day 2. What are the so-called 'culture wars'? And how are they playing out now during this pandemic?
Here is an alternate challenge: Attempt to define 'culture.' What does it mean to you? What cultural values do you consider most important to you?
Day 3. 'Cytokine storm' - Cytokines are signalling proteins that facilitate communication among our body's cells regarding immunity and inflammation. But it is becoming apparent that sometimes they make mistakes and behave incorrectly. What is a 'cytokine storm' ? Read this article in New Scientist, and write an essay (three paragraphs) on why cytokine storms may be particularly relevant to Covid-19 deaths.
Day 4. Codependency - Do you know what this word means? If not, look it up. Then read these two articles, and write a brief essay (2-3 paragraphs) on prospective impacts on personal relationships that the isolation and sheltering-in-place during the Covid-19 pandemic may have on personal relationships. How has the pandemic affected your personal relationships?
Article by Sherry Gaba LCSW (August 2019) in Psychology Today, "Boundaries and the Dance of the Codependent: How to Love and Value Yourself in Your Relationship with Others"
A blog by Madison Epting (March 24, 2020) in The Medium, "A Codependent's Survival Guide through a Mandated Quarantine"
Day 5. Nature and art - Find several natural materials you can use for today's challenge (example: twigs, pebbles, shells, leaves). Assemble them in a pleasing way that somehow makes something meaningful - it can recall a memory, depict something, or just be beautiful. Record it digitally using your phone. Duplicate the image several times, and using the editing tools on your phone's app/s, adjust the colors in different ways. Which colors, and color combinations do you find most pleasing? Any that generate negative feelings? Think about how color relates to emotion and emotional well-being.
Weekend challenge: Muslims and Eid - Muslims festively celebrate the end of the month of Ramadan, during which they have fasted every day from sunrise to sunset. Normally, they would share in prayer, communal feasts, large gatherings and festivals. This year, across the globe, Eid will be hyperlocal, taking place in individual households. If you were a Muslim what do you imagine you would be doing to contain the spread of Covid-19? India, presently in lockdown, has the world's second largest population of Muslims. See what is recommended in the The Times of India:
Additional weekend challenge: Playing with gravity - Stand up and jump. Throw a ball up in the air and catch it on its way down. Think of other ways you might play with gravity. Make a list of ten ways that gravity affects your daily life. Write a brief essay on what gravity is, and how our understanding of it changed with Einstein's view of relativity.
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
For weeks 8-9, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/05/06/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day