Learning During A Pandemic: Challenge-A-Day

By Carol Bier

This blog is updated daily - generally evening Pacific time

Week 48!

Day 1. Double jeopardy - What is the legal meaning of "double jeopardy"? Former chair of Trump's 2016 campaign, Paul Manafort, was pardoned by Trump for financial fraud. The New York State Court of Appeals, on the basis of double jeopardy, let stand a lower court ruling, saying he cannot be tried again. What is a Court of Appeals? What may happen next? What are your thoughts on these rulings? If you were writing a "letter to the editor" of the New York Times about this, what might you write?

Manafort Can't Be Prosecuted after Trump Pardon, New York Court Rules (New York Times, 8 February 2021)

Day 2. Impeachment - Look up the meaning of the word "impeachment." Former President Trump is being tried for a single article of impeachment, "Incitement of Insurrection." Every senator must take an oath of impartiality to serve as an impeachment juror. Read the oath, and consider what the difficulties are today (Tuesday, 9 February 2021) of how an oath to "do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws" can be upheld by jurors who were present at the Capitol when it was breached on 6 January 2021? Some were complicit; others were victimized. How might this experience affect the impartiality of justice? What is "impartial justice"?

U.S. Constitution ArtI.S3.C6.1.3.2 Requirement of Oath or Affirmation

Opinion: Trump's Weak Defense Will Expose the Depravity of GOP Senators Who Acquit Him (Greg Sargent, Washington Post, 9 February 2021)

Day 3. History-in-the-making - Primary documents for the Impeachment Trial in the Senate include the House Resolution for one article of impeachment, and the briefs presented in advance of the trial by the prosecution (11 House Managers) to the Senate "sitting as a Court of Impeachment," and the 78-page brief submitted by the defense (Trump's lawyers). Before the trial ends, it's worth reading these three documents, attached below. And then watching, if you can. all of the prosecution's opening arguments (today and tomorrow), and the defense opening arguments (to come). A few questions to keep in mind - what is Trump being charged for? What is the evidence? What are the questions you have going forward? If you were a Republican senator/juror, what information would you want to have before deciding on conviction or acquittal?

House Resolution 24: Article of Impeachment (engrossed in House of Representatives, 13 January 2021)

House Managers' (Prosecution) Brief

Trump's Lawyers' (Defense) Brief

Day 4. Closing statement - Today the House Managers concluded their prosecution of the single article of impeachment for "Incitement of Insurrection" with a series of questions they would ask of the defense. These questions also served as a summary of their case; they are provocative and profound. Can you do a few Google searches and find their questions? These are worth considering carefully for the future of our democracy.

Day 5. Poem - Look up the word 'metaphor.' Pick two colors and choose one metaphor and write a poem.

Weekend challenge: Cavalry and Calvary - A transposition of letters dramatically changes the meaning of these two words. Look them both up, and see how they muddled the impeachment trial in the Senate this week.

Opinion (Alexandra Petri) Send in the Cavalry! Or, rather the Calvary! (Washington Post, 12 February 2021)

Additional weekend challenge: Valentine's Day! Counting, Still Counting - Check out this exhibition by my collague, Pat Hickman, who is a fiber artist. Her exhibition, "Counting, Still Counting" expresses these ideas through the use of rusty nails and hog casings. See how her themes intersect with our challenges of the past few months - units of measurement and quantification, Covid numbers (check current!), and think about the differences between discrete and continuous mathematics (if you don't know those terms, look them up!), comparing countable quantities (of discrete things/units) and measurable magnitudes.

Counting, Still Counting (Pat Hickman, Buster Levi Gallery, Cold Spring NY)

Counting, Still Counting (5 February - 28 March 2021, Buster Levi Gallery, Cold Spring NY)

Week 47!

Day 1. Covid-19 vaccines - How do they work? How are they different from one another? What kinds of protection are offered? What are the risks? How many people do you know who 1) Have received their first dose of a vaccine? 2) Have not yet received a vaccine? 3) Have an appointment for a second dose? 4) Do not want to get vaccinated? Read this article in Science and what the CDC says. Are they saying approximately the same thing? If not, how do they differ?

How do the leading Covid-19 vaccines work? (Science Magazine, 29 January 2021)

Different Covid-19 Vaccines (Centers for Disease Control, 15 January 2021)

Day 2. Capture your mood - Take a walk around your neighborhood, and look for tiny details - textures, constructions, juxtaposition of colors, forms, deterioration, decay. Notice as many details as you can in 15 minutes. Using a camera or your phone, take a picture (or several) of something that catches your attention and captures your mood. Then manipulate the image if you can, using a photo app such as Adobe Photoshop or equivalent. If you have an iPhone, Photos app will work. Experiment with different adjustments and see if you can fine tune the image to capture your mood even more effectively.

Day 3. Take a walk - Take another walk around your neighborhood and seek out patterns - think about visual patterns, sound patterns, light patterns, time patterns. What makes them all patterns? How are they similar? How are they different?

Day 4. Islamic geometric patterns - Islamic geometric patterns were featured this week in the Wall Street Journal. Read the article, and chose at least one link to an activity to pursue.

The Staying Inside Guide: The Math Behind Mesmerizing Islamic Patterns (Wall Street Journal, 30 January 2021)

Day 5. Political collage - Today's challenge is to make a collage that reflects your own perception of some aspect of the political arena we face today. Select a topic of interest to you, and make it into something interesting visually that also communicates. Use images and/or text. The example below uses both, I think very effectively. But you may do it however you wish.

Senators Complicit in Trump's Insurrection (Instagram @MoveOne)

Weekend challenge: Bully pulpit - Do you know what a 'bully pulpit' is? If not, find out. See if you can come up with a list of five topics, and five positions that give examples of a bully pulpit.

Additional weekend challenge: (Italian stella = star) - The American artist, Frank Stella (b. 1936) loves to pun, and he has often created art in the form of stars. Read a recent review of a current exhibition of his work in Connecticut, and see how many different stars you can find.

In Frank Stella's Constellation of Stars, A Perpetual Evolution (New York Times, 4 February 2021)

Week 46!

Day 1. Tradition - How would you define tradition? Write down your definition. Then check it against the definition in at least two dictionaries. How did it compare? Write a paragraph explaining the role of tradition in your life. Contemplate how tradition affects our lives.

Day 2. Shameful and shameless - Look up these two words. What is the difference in their meaning? What about their usage? Discuss these terms with your parents, family, and friends. Does everyone agree that they are different?

Day 3. Professions - Today's challenge calls for several lists. First, list all the professions you can think of in which mathematics plays a key role. Second, enumerate all the different kinds of engineering you can think of; see if you can find a list to confirm yours. And third, name all of the life sciences you can, and check to be sure you've covered them all.

Day 4. Oops! I forgot to send you a challenge today - Your turn to send me one at arsperspectiva@gmail.com

Day 5. Today is Friday - A time for reflection. What were the challenges you faced this week? What were the highs? What were the lows? How are you feeling as the weekend begins?

Weekend challenge: Whitehouse.gov - Check out the White House website. What are the organizational categories? What topics are front and center? What do you like about this website? What do you not like about it? How might you suggest it be improved? 

Additional weekend challenge: Vaccinations - Check three websites for information about vaccinations and their availability. Do all three websites correlate? What are the similarities? What are the differences? [Note: If you are in a different location than Berkeley, California, find and use your local state and county websites].

Covid-19 Vaccines - Centers for Disease Control

Vaccines - California (State)

Covid-19 Vaccines - City of Berkeley

Week 45!

Day 1. Today is a federal holiday, commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a national day of service. I hope you've picked out a local organization to support. I initiated a Hillside Club food drive to donate dry food like beans, rice, canned fish for two local food pantries supporting those in need during the pandemic. You can contribute if you'd like; we're collecting from 3-7pm at 2286 Cedar Street - masked and socially distanced drop-off. It's in collaboration with AmeriCorps and MLK National Day of Service.

Hillside Club - Other Events - January 18

AmeriCorps (US Government)

Bay Area Community Resources

Day 2. Clarity - What clarity do you see on the horizon? What would you like to see happen in the next administration? What can you do to make it happen?

Day 3. Inauguration - As you watch the Inauguration events, pay attention to forms and formations. Where do you observe geometry? And think about, as President Biden asks of us, where you can lend a hand.

President Biden's Inaugural Address (20 January 2021)

Day 4. Poem - Watch and listen to the poem, "The Hill We Climb," written and read by 22-year old Amanda Gorman, youth poet laureate of the United States. This poem was written for the inauguration of our 46th president. Joseph R. Biden, Jr.  Think about what makes this poem so successful, and why it was appropriate for the Inauguration. Sit down and try to compose a poem yourself about democracy.

Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb (20 January 2021)

Day 5. Bunting - What is bunting? Why is it used so extensively for an inauguration? What is a baby's bunting? Might there be any similarity you can find in material, use, and meaning? [Hint: look up the etymology of inauguration. You might find it to be very interesting, and old-fashioned].

Weekend challenge: Palindromes this week - If you give today's date in all numbers, today is 12321, a palindrome! How many palindromes are there this week? How many in January? How many this year?

Additional weekend challenge: Curiosity: Name three things you are curious about. What might you do to engage or satisfy that curiosity? What will be your first step to finding out?

Week 44!

Day 1. Units of measure - How many different units of measure can you come up with? At first, I thought 'inches and centimeters,' but then I realized there are so many more! BTUs and calories, lumens and rads...this list goes on. I challenge you to come up with as many units as you can. Once you think you've competed your list, categorize the units according to whether they measure length/distance, mass/volume, area, temperature, time, or some other category.

Day 2. Your elected representatives - As high school students, you may be too young to vote, but you are not to young to make your thoughtful voices heard. Express your opinions to your elected representatives. This week Congress will be considering the impeachment of our president for "high crimes and misdemeanors," this time for inciting insurrection. Read the House's Resolution on the article of impeachment. Do you have an opinion you would like to share? If so, call your representatives. You can find out who they are, and what telephone number to call from this website for Elected Officials of the US Govement.

Read the Article of Impeachment (New York Times, 11 January 2021)

Elected Officials (USA.GOV)

Day 3. Politics aside, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave one of the very best speeches I have ever heard; it is raw and unfiltered, set against an unadorned wall. it should go down in history for its eloquent, heartfelt capturing of a moment in time during this pandemic. It is a personal account that conveys her experience of the hours she spent sequestered in an unspecified location in the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, and considers the past, present, and future of our nation. It was delivered on January 12, as an hour-long soliloquy, live on her Instagram account. It had the format of a Town Hall during Covid-19, with Q&A from constituents. Today's challenge is to give it a listen, the full 62 minutes.

 @AOC on Instagram (12 January 2021)

Day 4. Geometric patterns - Listen and watch a TED-Ed video develped by a colleague of mine, Eric Broug. It offers an outstanding introduction to Islamic geometric patterns with beautiful photographs, clear explanations and geometric constructions clearly demonstrated. I hope you enjoy it!

The Complex Geometry of Islamic Design (Eric Broug, 2015) 

Day 5. Collage - It's Friday. Spring is emerging here in Berkeley, where Fall and Spring seem to overlap; I miss Winter! Make a collage today restricting yourself to a range of greens.

Weekend challenge: Words, definitions, and shades of meaning: What is the difference between 'conspiracy' and 'conspiracy theory'? If you don't know the answer off hand, look up the terms. What distinguishes 'treason' from 'sedition'? How are 'mutiny' and 'insurrection' different from one another? What about 'accomplice' and 'co-conspirator'? What is a 'legal definition' and what are the legal definitions of these terms? Why might this be important?

Rebellion and Insurrection, Sedition, and Treason (FindLaw, 8 January 2021)

Additional weekend challenge: Signs of spring - We are seeing a hummingbird outside our window building a nest. What beginning signs of spring are you seeing? Take a walk around your neighborhood and see what you can find. Don't forget to check the time of the setting sun, and observe yourself carefully as well!

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.

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

For weeks 20-25, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/08/25/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 26-29, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/09/14/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 30-33, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/10/14/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 34-38, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/11/09/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 39-43, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/12/18/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 49ff, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2021/02/23/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day


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

Berkeley, CA © Carol Bier, 2021

 Please circulate to whoever might benefit. Stay healthy!