Help Your Students Make Sense of the Coronavirus
13 Mar 2020

Helping Your Students Make Sense of the Coronavirus

Look, I get it. By now, you’re probably sick and tired of hearing about the Coronavirus. It’s dominated the headlines for weeks. Your local stores are completely sold out of paper towels, hand sanitizer, and bottled water. People aren’t walking within five yards of each other, and all you really want to do is go home, close the door, and sleep while this whole mess blows over.

But you’re a teacher. Your immune system has been hit by every sickness Earth’s adolescent population could throw at you. In fact, your white blood cells are basically the Marines of the biological world. So arm yourself with wet wipes and Lysol, because it’s chaos out there and right now your students need you!

Prevent the Spread…of Misinformation

Ok, maybe that was a little dramatic, but your students really do need your help right now. Outbreaks like the Coronavirus can be scary for young learners, and that fear can spread just as quickly as any germ. You may have overheard some students whispering about how the virus was started by people eating bats (Important Note: The Coronavirus did not start from people eating bats). Other students might express fear for parents leaving on business after seeing all the travel warnings. Then there are students whose family income has been hurt by the economic downturn.

In moments like this, knowledge is our best tool. You can help your classroom come to terms with current events and teach them what they need to stay healthy. In doing so, you won’t just be imparting practical life skills, you can also engage their curiosity on matters of science, inquiry, and human emotion.

How To Survive a Plague 101

Here are four things you can do to help your students make sense of the Coronavirus:

  1. Decipher the Story: Students are very susceptible to propaganda. Since most get their news comes from social media, it’s easy for them to believe wild rumors, baseless speculation, and viral “cures” which have no merit in science. Start by teaching them how to separate good knowledge from bad. Ask them where they got their information. Is there evidence to corroborate this claim? What do other news sources say about this claim and the evidence behind it? It’s important your students know that CDC.gov is a more reliable source than their friend’s Tik Tok account.
  2. Understand the Virus: The first step to preventing the spread of sickness is understanding how a virus is spread. In the Blue Apple project, Prevent the Spread, teachers use a glitter game to show students how easily germs can be transferred from one surface to another. A second activity is to give your students stickers and have them “infect” their classmates. You can expand this game by changing the stickers’ colors to represent the disease, students who caught the disease but are asymptomatic, and students who have been inoculated against illness. Be sure to follow-up these activities by stressing the importance of hand-washing and proper hygiene!
  3. Share the History: This isn’t the first time the United States has seen a pandemic. Teach your students the value of scientific research and a quick response time by diving into the history of American illness. Show them how, in the case of Bird flu, early response and prevention kept the number of cases relatively low. However, during the Aids epidemic, the government refused to get involved and many people suffered as a result. You can end the lesson by reviewing ways students can keep themselves and their friends healthy: Wash your hands for 20 seconds, cough and sneeze into a tissue or elbow, and stay home if you’re feeling sick.
  4. Calm Down: Most important of all, help your students calm down. Yes, the Coronavirus isn’t good, but things aren’t as dire as they believe. Stress and panic can take a physical toll on people. Sometimes it can even make them sick! Give your classroom a chance to breathe. Put on some ambient music and lead them through a deep breathing exercise. Five-to-ten minutes of meditation can reduce their anxiety and alleviate some of the stress they’ve been accumulating. A clear head can go a long way in keeping your students safe and healthy.
Keep Calm and Stay Positive 

We hope you are all staying safe. Remember to wash your hands and keep up a positive attitude!

What about you? How will you help your students make sense of the coronavirus?

*Image Courtesy of Wikimedia commons.