This winter, our English and Science teachers teamed up to guide students through a research and writing unit about the nature of viruses and pandemics. Our students have learned so much first-hand this year about pandemics; we decided to present them with the scientific and historical context and have it culminate in a project of their own creation. In Science classes, students learned the basic science behind how viruses work and some information about historical viruses that have caused pandemics. We studied several types of writing and communication in English class, including narratives, infographics, and persuasive writing. Students then chose a specific topic within virology and pandemics, and dove into a research project.
Students produced a wide range of finished products. One student made a visual presentation comparing and contrasting our current COVID-19 mitigation strategies with those used during the black plague. Another student wrote a doctors’ log from a doctor’s perspective during the smallpox outbreak of the 1870s (excerpt below). Still others wrote opinion pieces about vaccinations, made presentations on how viruses work, and wrote narratives about living through COVID-19. At the end of our unit, we gathered students together, and they presented their projects to each other. The range of specific topics studied, and the variety of ways students communicated what they’d learned made the presentations engaging and thought-provoking. Not only did everyone gain more background information to put a context to what they’re living through, but they practiced essential skills of research, writing, and public speaking.