Learning During A Pandemic - A Challenge-A-Day

By Carol Bier

This blog is updated daily - generally evening Pacific time

Week 25!

Day 1. Sacred cows - What does the term "sacred cow" mean? What is its origin, and connection to religious ideas? What are some examples of sacred cows found in searches you conducted? Write a few sentences about sacred cows in your own experience or that of your family.

Day 2. Legacy and heritage - Look up these two words in a dictionary. What is the difference between them? Give an example of each. Consider/compare the legacy of the Civil War, and that of the Cold War. How about Spain's heritage in California? Write a brief essay on this subject.

Day 3. Gossip - Think about gossip - What is it? What is the difference between gossip used as a noun (two meanings - what are they?) and gossip used as a verb? Gossip is usually considered to be negative, certainly a person called a gossip is negatively perceived. What are some negative effects of gossip? Can you think of any positive benefits of gossip?

Day 4. Rage and outrage: What is the distinction between these two? Can you find any images in current newspapers or magazines (or online media) that express one or the other? Find a way visually to express rage or outrage. Perhaps make a collage using scissors, paper, and glue, to address rage or outrage. What might the dominant color be? Would there be contrasts? Complementary colors? What angles would most suit your expression of these emotions? What language?

Day 5.  Covid-19 statistics and graphs - Watch this daily video created by the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and critique it: What information does it convey? How does it convey data visually? What can you learn from what is presented? How effective is it as an educational tool? What might you suggest be improved in terms of visual components, sound, and the presentation of data?

COVID-19 Data in Motion - Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center

Weekend challenge: Anatomy of letters: To all my grandchildren - know that these daily challenges are filled with love, and my personal response to the social distancing required during this pandemic. No matter whether you take on each challenge or not, I trust they will have an impact over time. And at 175 challenges now, they take on a historical dimension, documenting our virtual time together (and apart) these past 25 weeks! They serve may as a document of these strange times. So take a page of lettering from a newspaper, magazine or book, or better yet, print out of a page from this set of challenges - and fill in with color the enclosed spaces of each letter, and understand that they are filled with love.

A Visual Guide to the Anatomy of Typography, by Orane Velarde

Additional weekend challenge: Perceptions of time - Let's revisit now how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected your sense of time. Have things speeded up? Slowed down? Do you have a sense that everything is passing at the same rate? Or do some things seem slow, and others fast? Can you prepare or sketch a graph, or a set of graphs, to suggest your perception of time during the pandemic?

 

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.

Week 24!

Day 1. Two women - The stories of these two women - Zeynep Tufekci and Kellyanne Conway - couldn't be more different. Read the two articles. Compare their interests, and their activities. Think about how predictions and underlying assumptions have affected each of their lives. You may need to search for a better article that describes Kellyanne's interests and work; I notice the one I've selected is actually weak on that score.

How Zeynep Tufekci Keeps Getting the Big Things Right, New York Times (August 23, 2020)

Kellyanne Conway, Long-Serving Trump Aide, is Leaving the White House, New york Times (August 24, 2020)

Day 2. Utopia and Dystopia - Look up these two words, dystopia and utopia. What do they mean? How are they related to one another? Wondering if you watched both the Republican Convention this week, and the Democratic Convention last week. If so, what was being said that relates to dystopia or utopia?

Day 3. Drawing - Using pencil or pen and paper, or an app, draw something. Please include in your drawing the following: parallel lines, a curve, two points and a non-collinear point, converging lines, an axis of symmetry, and a capital letter. Try to give the capital letter a sense of three dimensions. 

Day 4. Virtual, virtually, virtual reality - They look similar and like they might be related, but what do these three terms mean? Despite their visual (virtual?) similarity they have radically different meanings. How do each of them play out in relation to Covid-19 and the pandemic? Write a sentence in which each word/term appears once.

Day 5. Mycorrhorizae - Read this article on the role that below ground fungi play in a forest community - the fungi penetrate the roots, supplying water and nutrients in exchange for carbon. Then do a bunch of searches using a search engine such as Google, Bing, or Duck Duck Go, and respond to the following challenges: What is an ecosystem? What is a boreal forest? What is a pinyon pine forest? How do fungi support a plant's adaptation to climate change? Write a brief essay on the meaning of this sentence: "Mycorrhizal associations are arguably the most important symbioses in terrestrial ecosystems." Why are fungi considered to be "hidden partners" in this process?

Hidden Webs of Fungi... Science (August 26, 2020)

Weekend challenge: Homonyms - "Time flies like an arrow but fruit flies like a banana." There are two words that are homonyms (homophones - sounding the same, but meaning is different) in this sentence - which are they? A homonym may be two words spelled differently but sound the same, like "bear" and "bare." One of my favorites is "allowed" and "aloud." "Weekend" and "weakened" are nearly homonyms. Most homonyms we think of are single syllables. Can you think of five pairs of homonyms that are single syllables? Can you come up with others that are more than one syllable? What about a homonym that can be used as a pun?

 

Week 23!

Day 1. News - What news have you heard or learned about in the past week - local, regional, national, or international - that 1) you didn't expect and it caught you by surprise? 2) you fully expected and aren't surprised at all? 3) is completely new to you? Write a brief essay on news, and how it affects you in different ways.

Day 2. Vote counts - Biden is now formally nominated as the Democratic Party's Presidential Candidate. Can you locate a list of votes by each state and territory? What do you find surprising in these counts?

Day 3. Stock market - The stock market keeps rising, and has reached a new high, even during the pandemic, economic melt-down, tropical storms, fires, and destructive federal policies that are affecting many national institutions like disabling the post office. The New York Times offers an opinion piece, "The Record Market, Explained," as to why the stock market is so high, and the explanations are based on predictions and underlying assumptions. Read the article - it is very brief - and identify what are the predictions, and what are the underlying assumptions.

The Record Market, Explained, New York Times (August 19, 2020)

Day 4. Inflection point - We have heard the term, "Inflection point," used in several contexts in news of the past few weeks. What is an inflection point? What does it mean? Figure out several search strategies to determine its meanings in different contexts: What does it mean in mathematics, describing a point on a curve? Explain its meaning in business. What about in relation to Covid-19? How about in politics? What is the similarity in the meanings in all of these contexts?

Day 5. Dang! I forgot to send you a challenge - your turn to send me one! 

Weekend challenge: Hawaii's flag - The state flag of Hawai'i is the only one of our fifty United States that includes the "Union Jack," a visual reference to the official flag of the United Kingdom, even though the original thirteen colonies belonged to Britain and broke away as a result of the American Revolution. Your weekend challenge has three parts - 1) Why does the Hawaiian flag reference that of Great Britain? 2) What other visual symbols are embedded in Hawaii's state flag? 3) Why is the state's name sometimes spelled Hawaii, and other times Hawai'i? What is the diacritic mark called that is inserted between the two i's?

Additional weekend challenge: Building and emotions - Architecture and our built environment affects our emotions. Can you think of a space within the build environment that affects you emotionally? Identify a place that when you walk in makes you feel happy. In contrast, identify a place that when you walk in makes you feel uncomfortable. Identify a place that makes you feel anxious. And one in which you feel excited and joyous. In any of these instances, can you explain in words what makes you feel the way you feel there? Is it colors, materials, textures, scale? Or something else?

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.

 

Week 22!

Day 1. Take a photograph or draw in a way that expresses happiness. Do it again. Do it a third time, and write a brief essay on how happiness can be expressed. 

Day 2. Discuss with a couple of friends or family members what means they've found helpful to control anxiety and manage stress. Write a brief essay on your own thoughts and what you've learned. Are there any new stress management strategies you might bring in to play?

Day 3. Textures and words - Textures are generally perceived through our sense of touch. Take a break - walk around your neighborhood to find various textures. Enjoy being outside, breathe deeply, and develop your awareness of where you are. Be in the moment! Identify five different textures to focus your attention. Feel each texture with your fingers (Be careful - don't touch poison oak or anything that might pose a danger!). Think about what it feels like. Find words to describe it to convey that feeling to others.

Day 4. Predictions - Think of the many predictions you have heard in the past six months. Which proved true? Which proved not? Predictions are based upon underlying assumptions. What predictions can you make for the next six months? What underlying assumptions do they rely upon?

Day 5. Mathematical problem - If you want to bake cornbread, and the recipe calls for a 10" round cast iron skillet, but all you have is a 9" square glass baking dish, write out in narrative format what mathematical problem needs to be solved. [Hint: what changes or adjustments might you have to make in the recipe, if any?]

Home made cornbread recipe with buttermilk

Weekend challenge:  Cardboard construction - try this!!! Youll need cardboard, a craft knife, pencil, and a compass. Let me know how it goes! Email me at arsperspectiva@gmail.com

A Practical Introduction to Muqarnas by Eric Broug

Additional weekend challenge: Oops! All that unseasonal thunder and lightning, rain and hail today - I completely forgot to post a challenge! Your turn to send me one at arsperspectiva@gmail.com

 

Week 21!

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 Centerand formulate six questions you think still need to be answered or addressed.

Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center

Day 2. Script - How many words can you think of that contain "script" as a component? What does "script" mean? What does it have to do with? Why is it a part of each of these words?

Day 3. Dogs - Name all the breeds of dogs you can think of. Why are dogs bred? What is a breed? Today we think of dogs as pets. What roles did dogs have in the past? Why are they sometimes called "a man's best friend"? Even though dogs of different breeds are different shapes and sizes, and they exhibit widely diverse features, all dogs (and wolves) are the same species. How do we know they are the same species?

Day 4. Reading aloud - Reading aloud is now known to bring cognitive benefits. Hearing yourself read aloud seems to commit to long-term memory. Heading others read aloud helps develop good listening skills as well as to foster empathy and perhaps aid in the development of coping skills for stress management. Today's challenge is to select a poem or story and read it aloud to a family member or friend. Read it slowly, enunciating each word carefully and with as much expression as possible to help convey meaning to your listener.

Day 5. A natural experiment - The state of Kansas, it appears, has conducted "a natural experiment" and discovered that wearing masks really does break the curve, showing far lower incidences of Covid-19 over time. Read this article in KCTV-News and one in McPherson Sentinelto see how this information came to be understood. What is a. "natural experiment"? In this instance, who comprise the control group? Who comprise the experimental group? What conclusions can you draw from the data?

Kansas Counties with Mask Mandate Show Steep Covid-19 Drop KCTV

Norman: Kansas Has Become Natural Experiment in Mask Mandate Battle McPherson Sentinel

Weekend challenge: Alcatraz - Several geographic features in San Francisco Bay retain evidence of the history of our region, even if mistakes were made and attitudes over the centuries have changed. This area was "owned" by Spain long before California became a state in the United States. And long before that, Arabs had penetrated the Iberian peninsula that we now call Spain (and Portugal). History is often preserved in language - Spanish contains many words that are from Arabic, just as English now has many words that are from Spanish. Listen (or read) Michael Ellis' brief perspectiveon Alcatraz, Sausalito, and Yerba Buena. And think about other words and places we use that come from other languages.

Michael Ellis, Perspective, KQED (7 August 2020)

Additional weekend challenge: Oops! I forgot to send this one. Your turn to send me one at arsperspectiva@gmail.com! Make it mathematical as we begin Week 22, and as you begin a new phase in this weirdest of times. It's August 10 today, but school is starting again!

Week 20!

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.

Gabbeh (1996, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf), 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.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Responds to Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), July 23, 2020

Rep. John Lewis (1940-2020) Memorial Service at US Capitol, July 27, 2020

Day 3. Ooops - I forgot to send you a challenge today. Your turn to send me one! <arsperspectiva@gmail.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 26+, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/09/14/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

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

 

Thoughts?    Comments?    Questions?   Suggestions?   Email arsperspectiva@gmail.com

Berkeley, CA © Carol Bier, 2020  -  Please circulate to whoever might benefit. Stay healthy!