COVID-19 has caused so many changes in our lives. What are we doing differently now? Why are we doing those things, and how do we feel about all of the changes? In the context of decisions their families make, students explore the basics of how the virus affects people, and design investigations to explore how it spreads from person to person, and what we can do to prevent that spread.
Students explore examples of inequity that mean not everyone gets to make the same decisions about staying safer from the coronavirus. Some of these inequities are related to how society has treated some people unfairly for a long time. Asking “Should we…?” questions help students and their families to consider the kinds of informed actions we can take to care for ourselves and others. We might need to adjust our decisions as we learn new information or are in different situations. This multidisciplinary unit includes integrated social-emotional learning and supports for teachers and families in addressing these emotional topics.
*This is a field test version of the unit and will be revised after the field test and released in March 2021.
Additional Unit Information
- Practice 1: Asking Questions and Defining Problems: Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Ask questions based on observations to find more information about the natural and/or designed world(s). (1)
- Practice 2: Developing and Using Models. Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Develop and/or use a model to represent amounts, relationships, relative scales (bigger, smaller), and/or patterns in the natural and designed world(s). (2)
- Practice 3: Planning and Carrying Out Investigations. Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- With guidance, plan and conduct an investigation in collaboration with peers (for K). (3)
- Plan and conduct an investigation collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer a question. (3)
- Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements of a proposed object or tool or solution to determine if it solves a problem or meets a goal. (3)
- Practice 4: Analyzing and Interpreting Data. Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Record information (observations, thoughts, and ideas). (3, 4)
- Use and share pictures, drawings, and/or writings of observations. (3, 4)
- Use observations (firsthand or from media) to describe patterns and/or relationships in the designed world in order to answer scientific questions and solve problems. (4)
- Analyze data from tests of an object or tool to determine if it works as intended. (3)
- Practice 6: Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions: Students engage in this element for grades K-2:
- Generate and/or compare multiple solutions to a problem. (5)
- Practice 7: Engaging in Argument from Evidence. Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Construct an argument with evidence to support a claim. (3)
- Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information. Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Read grade-appropriate texts and/or use media to obtain scientific and/or technical information to determine patterns in and/or evidence about the natural and designed world(s). (2, 3, 4)
- Crosscutting Concept 1: Patterns: Students engage in these elements for grades K-2:
- Patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence. (1)
- Crosscutting Concept 4: Systems and System Models: Students engage in this element for grades K-2:
- Systems in the natural and designed world have parts that work together. (5)
- CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP5 Use appropriate tools strategically. (3)
- CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7 Look for and make use of structure. (1)
- Speaking and Listening:
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas, and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. (2)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience (2)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations. (5)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text. (2, 4)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. (2)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. (2)
- CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.5 Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings. (1)
- Gathering and Evaluating Sources:
- D3.1.K-2. Gather relevant information from one or two sources while using the origin and structure to guide the selection. (2)
- Communicating Conclusions:
- D4.2.K-2. Construct explanations using correct sequence and relevant information. (2)
- D4.3.K-2. Present a summary of an argument using print, oral, and digital technologies. (2)
- Critiquing conclusions:
- D4.1.K-2. Construct an argument with reasons. (4)
- D4.4.K-2 Ask and answer questions about arguments. (4)
- D4.5 K-2. Ask and answer questions about explanations. (2, 4)
- Taking Informed Action:
- D4.6.K-2. Identify and explain a range of local, regional, and global problems, and some ways in which people are trying to address these problems. (1)
- D4.7.K-2. Identify ways to take action to help address local, regional, and global problems. (5)
- Self-awareness: The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior.
- Identifying Emotions (1, 3, 4)
- Social Awareness: The ability to take the perspective of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds and cultures. The ability to understand social and ethical norms for behavior and to recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
- Perspective-Taking (4, 5)
- Empathy (3)
- Appreciating Diversity (3)
- Responsible Decision-Making: The ability to make constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions based on ethical standards, safety concerns, and social norms. The realistic evaluation of consequences of various actions and a consideration of the wellbeing of oneself and others.
- Identifying Problems (2)
- Analyzing Situations (2, 5)
- Solving Problems (5)
- Evaluating (2)
- Reflecting (5)
- Ethical Responsibility (5)
- ID.K-2.5 I see that the way my family and I do things is both the same as and different from how other people do things, and I am interested in both. (1, 3, 5)
- DI.K-2.6 I like being around people who are like me and different from me, and I can be friendly to everyone. (1)
- DI.K-2.8 I want to know about other people and how our lives and experiences are the same and different. (1, 3)
- JU.K-2.12 I know when people are treated unfairly. (4)
- JU.K-2.14 I know that life is easier for some people and harder for others, and the reasons for that are not always fair. (1, 3, 4)
- AC.K-2.16 I care about those who are treated unfairly. (4)
- AC.K-2.20 I will join with classmates to make our classroom fair for everyone. (5)
This unit was designed for teachers in kindergarten, first, or second grades by providing the following supports:
- Specific callouts throughout the Teacher Guide to suggest when and how to modify activities to meet the needs of students who need more support or students who are ready for more, especially in the areas of literacy, math, and science practices.
- “Supporting Kindergarteners” callouts to note when it might make sense to skip or modify an activity for those youngest learners.
- A choice of texts and videos for obtaining information about the virus so that teachers can decide which will best fit their students’ needs.
- Family Tools that invite families to share in conversations and activities that will inform class discussions and provide authentic ways for students to reflect on and share their learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how science and society connect. Therefore, the content of this unit includes science, social studies, and social-emotional learning, and students use literacy skills and science and math practices to explore these ideas. As such, you may see fit to teach this unit during any of those subject times in your schedule (or a combination of them).
This unit consists of 5 lessons which total 12 “days” of 30 minutes each. So, some teachers will plan to use about 30 minutes of their day several days a week to teach this unit. However, each Teacher Guide includes a “lesson snapshot” chart at the beginning, which summarizes the steps in the lesson, so you may choose to break the “days” into different pieces. For example, you might start a lesson by discussing the Family Tool responses during SEL circle time, then continue with a reading-to-learn step during your literacy block or carry out an investigation during science time.
This COVID-19 & Health Equity Unit contains Family Tools as part of the storyline. These tools are meant to engage children and families in learning more about the COVID-19 disease and the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease. In addition, these tools are meant to help teachers learn more about families’ knowledges and practices related to SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 so that they are better able to support children’s learning. Families have rich knowledges, practices, experiences, identities, and relations that support children’s learning within and across contexts. Family Tools help children and educators explore and use these various dimensions as part of children’s learning in school, and they help support “partnerships for familial and communal thriving and learning across places.” (Learning in Places Collaborative, 2020) Family Tools are not meant to be evaluated by classroom teachers or as something to be graded. Rather, they are learning supports for educators, children, and families themselves. Schools often hold deep deficit views of families and make problematic assumptions about families’ commitments, intellectual capabilities, experiences, and interests. Family Tools offer a path toward resisting these problematic assumptions that are often racist, classist, xenophobic, and the like.
Family Tools serve several purposes. Family Tools:
- help expand the practices of creating equitable relationships and community among families, educators, and learners;
- ensure that family knowledges, practices, experiences, identities, questions, and wonderings help structure, guide, and facilitate children’s learning in school classrooms;
- create supports for children that coordinate their navigation across home and school and these tools support generative intergenerational learning in family and school contexts;
- help educators see and expand their understanding of the cultural and intellectual strengths of families, and also help educators routinely incorporate family knowledges, practices, experiences, questions, and wonderings into instruction to more robustly support children’s learning; and
- model language and ideas that help support children’s learning across family and school contexts.
Family Tools were intentionally incorporated throughout this unit because it is important for families to engage with their students about the topics being covered in class and to add to or extend on those ideas based on their own family knowledges and practices. The point is for students and families to make sense of, discuss, and learn together–not for the teacher to tell families how to think. In this unit we are examining evidence that may or may not change the way students and families think about COVID-19 and our society (but this is what learning is always about!).
In the COVID-19 & Health Equity Unit there are two different types of Family Tools that serve different purposes.
- Unit Resources for Families and Teachers provide overview information about the big ideas and dimensions that are reflected in the unit. They also point to other resources that families and you might choose to explore. Throughout the unit, families can refer to these documents for background information and discussion ideas. We advise you to read these resources before beginning the unit. The big ideas covered in these resources include:
- information about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease that it causes, what scientists and other experts recommend people do in order to try and lessen the spread of the virus, and why learning about this is important for present and future decision-making (decisions individuals might make, decisions families might make, and decisions communities might make and why);
- issues of equity associated with SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, such as systemic racism related to food, housing, and healthcare, that are important for families and children to explore and discuss as part of their ethical deliberations and decision-making;
- ethical deliberation and decision-making, and why social emotional learning is an important part of children’s learning about COVID-19; and
- children’s conceptions of illness and death, especially as they relate to learning about COVID-19.
- Lesson-Specific Family Tools:
- help provide a better understanding of families’ ideas, knowledges, practices, questions, and wonderings related to elements of the COVID-19 & Health Equity Unit that children and teachers can use as part of classroom instruction to support children’s learning. For example, prior to or during classroom lessons, families might engage in discussions within their families or with other families, collect information, or participate in an activity. Children then bring those ideas, questions, practices, and wonderings generated by their families to school where children and teachers can use them during instruction and classroom activity; and
- help summarize classroom activity and discussions for families, and provide an avenue for them to generate additional reflections, questions, and wonderings. After many classroom lessons, families receive information and examples related to what children did in school and are able to reflect on that learning, as well as generate questions and wonderings related to that learning that children can then bring back to school.
Note: Lesson-Specific Family Tools consist of two parts—a Caregiver Information section to summarize for families where this tool fits in the scope of the unit and a Family Activity section with discussion prompts and other activities for children and their families to do together. We advise you to read and complete these Family Tools in preparation for each lesson where they’re used.
Establishing classroom agreements, expectations, or norms to form a strong and safe class culture, especially around discussion, is critical for teaching this unit. You may wish to have students help you create these agreements, or you may wish to create them yourself and then share them with students. If you create them yourself, spend some time discussing them with students before they agree to them. Consider why each idea is important, what it might look and sound like when students are doing that, and how not following that agreement could affect how others feel and interact with the learning community. Be careful of expectations that have often been normed for whiteness and used to maintain white comfort, such as “be nice.” It is important to make sure the expectations in your classroom are not being used to police or silence students who may feel hurt or anger during conversations, particularly Black and/or Latinx students.
Work to build relationships with your students so that they know they will not be judged for expressing their emotions. Be sure that you have established classroom norms to build a strong classroom culture within which students feel safe sharing their feelings. Do not minimize or attempt to change these emotions, but listen thoughtfully and validate those feelings. We all have strong feelings—it is natural and normal. Identifying those feelings (and why we have them, if possible) helps us build our self-awareness. Model coping strategies you use (see the example in step 3 of Lesson 1). Prepare your students for how to respond if and when classmates mention that someone they know has gotten very ill or died from COVID-19. Remind your students that they should be an active listener (don’t interrupt) when a classmate shares and acknowledge that person’s feelings by saying something like, “Wow, that must have been really hard,” or “I’m so sorry that happened.” Also, consider working directly with a school counselor or social worker to provide support for students who have experienced trauma related to COVID-19.
Take the time to have foundational discussions about race in your classroom, if you haven’t already. Often, issues of race are avoided because the fact of inequity is uncomfortable to talk about and acknowledge. Think about for whom these conversations are uncomfortable and for whom these conversations are simply a reflection of their lived experience. When we bring issues of racial inequity out into the light, we can use that information to make more ethically responsible decisions. You may wish to begin by reading and discussing some of the books listed here: https://www.embracerace.org/resources/20-picture-books-for-2020 and Teaching Tolerance has substantial lesson plans available on their website, as well, at https://www.tolerance.org/classroom-resources.
In this unit, we openly acknowledge racism and that it has contributed to the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on Black, Indigenous, and people of color communities. We should all feel angry and sad about these inequities, but exploring them could be especially emotional for students who have experienced systemic racism themselves. Encourage students to express their emotions, validating their concerns or frustrations. Continue to use Family Tools to encourage and support discussions of racism in families, asking them to highlight the strengths in families and communities and sharing those strengths in class. As you make action plans for how to care for ourselves, our families, and our communities, understand that racism and inequality work on a systems level that is the result of historic inequalities meant to privilege whiteness and that, while individuals can make ethical choices and shift systems, change needs to happen at the systems levels. Encourage students in taking classroom-level and wider collective, systemic action.
Read the Children’s Conceptions of Illness and Death Unit Resource for Families and Teachers for information about children’s developmental understandings of illness and death and the cultural variation around how adults involve children in conversations about illness and death, some of which is also summarized here. It is not “developmentally inappropriate” to talk with young learners about illness and death, but it is important to think about how to do that well and to support children emotionally. Children develop ideas about how biology works starting from very young ages and already have robust ideas about biology, and more specifically about illness and death, by the time they come to kindergarten. Thus, it is important for educators to realize that children were already making sense of illness and death before COVID-19 and that explicit conversation, including the science of COVID-19, can be helpful to children conceptually as well as emotionally. Importantly, children’s general understandings of illness and death, and likely also regarding COVID-19, are influenced by their social contexts, experiences, and cultural worldviews, values, and practices. Children draw on a range of experiences and “sources” of information in the development of their ideas about illness and death. Some of their ideas may be explicitly taught by family, community, or teachers. However, research suggests that children are generally under-resourced in developing their explanations and tend to develop ideas on their own or in interaction with other children. So, if children are already making sense of illness and death, they are likely doing this with COVID-19. However, we know of no research that has examined young children’s understandings of COVID-19. Thus, we have designed this unit based on what we know more broadly about children’s understandings and social-emotional needs, and this unit is intended to help resource children’s understanding. Importantly, while science education overall is good at helping children make sense of “the how” of illness and death, it is not as good with “the why.” Children are very interested in “the why” of things, especially with respect to illness and death.
This unit has worked to carefully consider differences in experiences, cultural practices, and values and to ensure that families are empowered to explore these dimensions with their children in whatever ways they choose. Families will be encouraged to openly communicate with children about their own families’ perspectives on “the why” of illness and death. As a teacher of this unit, reflect on your own perspectives, values, and ways of communicating with children about illness and death, but also recognize that it is important not to impose your views on others. Child psychology suggests that talking about illness and death may be better for children who are stressed or struggling to understand something than not. However, do not try and smooth over children’s worries in an effort to make them feel better. Sometimes children just need someone to say, “I can tell that you are worried or scared. I am here for you.”
This unit was designed so that students could engage with the materials in a classroom setting or at home via remote learning. Callouts in the sidebar of each Teacher Guide suggest supports for remote learning, including which elements of the lesson would be ideally taught during synchronous time. The unit is written in “days” of 30 minutes each, but each Teacher Guide includes a “lesson snapshot” chart at the beginning, which summarizes the steps in the lesson, so you may choose to break the “days” into different pieces, many of which could be done asynchronously. The following sections give specific suggestions for setting up components of the unit for remote learning. Recall that many of the artifacts you create as a class (such as the Driving Question Board, Word Wall, and Decision-Making Chart) will be referenced throughout the unit, so you’ll need a way to link back to them or reshare them in your virtual learning environment.
Due to privacy concerns and equity issues (such as unreliable internet access), not all students may choose to have their video on during virtual class discussions. Encourage students to join in the conversation via audio only, with no stigma, and invite students to reply to questions using the meeting’s chat feature. Use breakout rooms to allow for small-group or partner talk, posting the discussion prompt(s) in the chat so that everyone can refer to them.
Collecting Shared Class Ideas
Many lessons call for “chart paper and markers (or similar digital tool).” Your remote teaching setup may include chart paper, and you can scribe student ideas or create a consensus model as you would in your typical classroom, just on video so that students can see and participate. However, you may also choose to create a shared Google document when collecting student ideas (and you can type into it as students share aloud or give all students editing access and have them each type their ideas into a certain area of the document, such as a table row). Padlet, Jamboard, and Mural are platforms that use digital “sticky notes” and are helpful for times when everyone is contributing ideas (such as for the Driving Question Board). You may choose to interact with your class on SeeSaw, as well.
Notebooks are not necessary for this unit, but you may choose to have students use notebooks as a thinking space to plan ideas before sharing, reflect personally on their feelings, and record data from investigations. These notebooks need not be shared with the teacher (unless you choose to ask for them), so it may work just fine for you to have students at home work in a regular spiral-bound notebook. However, you may also choose to set up digital student notebooks, which could be as simple as a running Google document they type in as needed or as elaborate as slides that you’ve prepared for each lesson with locked objects, including prompts and space for students to respond.
Throughout the unit, your class will post important words on the Word Wall (see the section that follows for more information). You may choose to post Word Wall words on a physical pin board or write them on chart paper in your own remote teaching space, and then put it in view as students need it for reference. You also might create a shared document or slide deck that you add to as the unit goes on. Alternatively, or in addition to your class Word Wall space, students might record Word Wall words in the notebooks as their own personal glossary for the unit. Whatever setup you choose, be sure you can add drawings or pictures so that each word’s definition includes visual support.
The investigations in this unit were designed to use common household items so that students would not need specialized materials if they’re doing investigations at home. That said, you will likely want to plan asynchronous time for students to carry out the investigations because the gathering of those supplies (especially if adult help is required) might not be immediately possible.
This is a field test version of this unit, which means that it has not yet been reviewed or tested sufficiently to determine that it meets the standards of NextGen Science Storylines, Learning in Places, and OpenSciEd for high quality instructional materials. The developers will be conducting a field test and obtaining reviews in the fall of 2020 and revising the materials for official release in March 2021. Because of the importance and time-sensitive nature of the unit’s subject, the developers have decided to make this version of the unit available to educators while we are reviewing, field testing, and revising it.
Given the unit’s status, the developers encourage educators to review the materials carefully and make an informed judgment about the appropriateness of the unit for use in their context. The developers seek feedback about this unit from both educators who choose to use this version and those who choose not to. All feedback received at http://bit.ly/COVID-Unit-Feedback before December 31, 2020, will be consulted in the process of revising the unit.
- Brian J. Reiser, PhD, Project Leader, NextGen Science Storylines, Northwestern University
- Megan Bang, PhD, Project Leader, Learning in Places, Northwestern University
- Carrie Tzou, PhD, Project Leader, Learning in Places, University of Washington, Bothell
- Gail Housman, MEd, Unit Co-Lead, NextGen Science Storylines, Northwestern University
- Blakely Tsurusaki, PhD, Unit Co-Lead, University of Washington, Bothell
- Jamie Deutch Noll, MiT, NBCT, Writer, NextGen Science Storylines, Northwestern University
- Leah Bricker, PhD, Writer, Learning in Places, Northwestern University
- Ashley Stanely, Writer, Dewey School, Evanston, IL
- Sara Schneeberg, MSEd, Writer, Ogden International School of Chicago, Chicago, IL
- Dan Voss, MSEd, Writer and Reviewer, Dallas Center-Grimes High School, Grimes IA
- Amy McGreal, Writer, James Ward Elementary School, Chicago, IL
- Katy Fatelleh, MEd, Reviewer, The Nora Project
- Christina Murzynski, Research Study Coordinator, Northwestern University
- Maria Gonzales, Copy Editor, Independent Contractor
- Natalie Giarratano, Copy Editor, Independent Contractor
- Diane Kraut, Permissions, DK Research, Inc.
- Chris Moraine, Multimedia Graphic Designer, BSCS Science Learning
- Geoffrey Baird MD, PhD, Professor and Interim Chair, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle
- Rebecca G. Kaplan, PhD, Library Information Specialist, Summit Middle School, Frisco, CO
The development team consulted with the following experts to inform their development of the unit.
- Dennis Chao, Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Disease Modeling
- Jessica Elm, MSW, PhD, Assistant Scientist, Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health
- Cristine H. Legare, Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin
- Kerri Z. Machut, MD, Assistant Professor, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
- Dr. Lauren Ancel Meyers, Executive Director, UT COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, Cooley Centennial Professor of Zoology, Department of Integrative Biology, The University of Texas at Austin
- Ali H. Mokdad, PhD, Chief Strategy Officer, Population Health, University of Washington