Learning During a Pandemic - A Challenge-A-Day
This blog is updated daily (generally evening Pacific time)
Day 1. Coronavirus Pandemic - In the US we're up to 4.7 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 156,000 reported deaths caused by this disease. Why is the reference to "confirmed" or "reported" significant? What cases and/or deaths might go unreported or unconfirmed? When you compare statistics for the US to the rest of the world (global statistics 18.2 million confirmed cases/691K deaths), what stands out most? What have we done wrong? What can be improved? What can you do personally? Explore the website of the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center and formulate six questions you think still need to be answered or addressed.
These are challenges I endeavor to write daily for my grandchildren (14, 16, 17), so geared to middle/high school age. 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. Many adults enjoy 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. Time-keeping - Think about how tree rings measure time, or phases of the moon. What phase are we in today? Look outside tonight - is it a half moon? Or quarter moon? Is it waxing or waning? [If you don't know these terms, look them up!] Or a full moon? What causes a crescent moon? [Hint: think shadow, sun and shade]. Take a walk outside and look around you. Allow as little as fifteen minutes, or take as much time as you like. Make note of the position of the sun when you start and when you end. Make a record of all the ways you see evidence of time passing and what marks the passage of time. If you are interested, keep these questions in mind as you watch one of my favorite Iranian films, Gabbeh (1996), directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. It is available on Amazon Prime.
Day 2. Sexism and racism/historic speeches - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) asked for a point of personal privilige and addressed Congress the other day, offering the most poignant statement about sexism in our society that I have ever heard. Hers is aspeechthat will go down in history. Do you know how to read the initials after her name? Do you know what they mean? Just a few days later, the body of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) lay in state in the Rotunda of the US Capitol in Washington DC. What does it mean "to lie in state"? This is an honor reserved for the most revered Americans; he was only the second Black lawmaker to lie in state at the Capitol. During part of the ceremony, a recording was played of an amazing speech he had delivered years ago, still relevant today and worth a careful listen. His speech begins at 26:10 in the recording.
Day 3. Ooops - I forgot to send you a challenge today. Your turn to send me one! <email@example.com>
Day 4. The color brown - How many things can you think of that are brown? Brown is neither a primary color, nor a secondary color. What colors combine to form brown? Take a walk around your neighborhood and make a list of everything you see that is brown. Are there browns you especially like? Any that you don't like? How might you describe different colors that are brown?
Day 5. Geometric shapes - With your thumb and forefinger, describe an arch. An arch may be a segment of a circle. How might you determine where the center of this circle lies? Can you estimate its centerpoint? Every circle has a radius. Actually every circle has many radii (infinite radii, all the same length), but only one centerpoint (with no dimension!). With your elbow as centerpoint, can you describe a circle with your arm as radius? Lean over and let your shoulder be a centerpoint and now describe a cone with your arm. A cone has a centerpoint at top, and infinite circles that are progressively larger as you move towards the base. Take a walk around your neighborhood to see if you can find any arches, circles, or cones and consider their centerpoints and radii. What is cone-shaped?
Weekend challenge: [Covid-19 doesn't know weekends...] Informed decisions - Think about how you personally go about making an informed decision. What information do you need? How might you find it? What do you do with it? Gather several examples of informed decisions you have taken, and analyze the process. What is the difference in meaning between "informed" and "informal"?
Additional weekend challenge: Oaks, acorns, and anticipation: Write a brief essay on the relationship between oaks and acorns and anticipation. Although it is summer, the days are getting shorter. Have you noticed any change in the angles of sunlight or when the sun rises and sets? As the days grow shorter, what might we anticipate? List ten thnings.
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
For weeks 10-12, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/06/03/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day
For weeks 13-19, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/07/07/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day