Pennsylvania Teachers Use Pandemic as Learning Tool

Students in the area of Carlisle, Pa., were graded on a different kind of curve this spring before COVID-19 forced the local school district to pivot suddenly from in-person to online instruction.

by Joseph Cress, The Sentinel / June 22, 2020
Shutterstock/fizkes

(TNS) — Carlisle, Pa., area students were graded on a different kind of curve this spring as COVID-19 forced the local school district to pivot suddenly from in-person to online instruction.

The statewide strategy to flatten the rate of infection brought with it opportunities for local teachers to use the pandemic as the backdrop for teachable moments not included in the original lesson plan.

“We really emphasize the concept of relevance in our curriculum,” said Michael Gogoj, a former social studies teacher and current director of curriculum and instruction for the Carlisle Area School District.

“We want our students to connect to the world outside our walls,” he said. “That’s the whole point of an education. I’m excited to see how our teachers seized the opportunity to bring this global event into their teaching. That’s what we should be doing more in education.”

In English classes, across all grade levels, students were asked to keep journals to reflect on how COVID-19 is impacting them, Gogoj said. They were encouraged to jot down their feelings and experiences.

Turning to math, there were lessons on how to analyze medical statistics and solve algebra problems connected with social distancing.

Superintendent Christina Spielbauer cited other examples in a recent email to The Sentinel:

In AP American History, students were asked to create a “toolkit” of sources future historians could use to gather information for an analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other activities tied to social studies compared the current crisis to the Spanish flu and included a detailed examination of how the federal government reacted to each crisis. Students were also encouraged to analyze political cartoons of the past and create their own to illustrate current events.

In the business academy of the Center for Careers and Technology, YouTube videos were used to get students to think about the effect the pandemic is having on the economy.

In a biology class, as part of a unit on population ecology, students were asked to analyze methods to flatten the curve and make a recommendation.

In art classes, students used different methods and materials to process their fear and frustrations related to COVID-19. Though the districtwide art show was canceled, there were opportunities for students to display their work virtually through the Susquehanna Art Museum, the Trout Gallery, the Carlisle Arts Learning Center, the Art in the Wild Exhibit in Harrisburg and an online exhibit at Lamberton Middle School.

“Our faculty did such an amazing job,” Gogoj said. “I’m really proud of their effort to seize the pandemic as a learning tool.”

©2020 The Sentinel (Carlisle, Pa.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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