When 161 Baltimore City Schools closed in response to COVID-19, about 70,000 schools opened in the homes of our students. The district has scrambled to provide meal services, computers and internet access to students. But what have we done to keep our students engaged and healthy?
Here are six areas where we could help students protect and improve their health and learning over the next four to six months.
1)Create safe and effective home learning environments. Baltimore has a legacy of lead poisoning and childhood asthma rates that are twice the state average. Lead poisoning can lead to permanent learning disabilities. Asthma is the leading health cause of school absences. Now that school hours are spent at home, students who live in homes with existing health hazards have extended exposure to harm.
Using home health as a science project, we can help students use an online survey to assess whether their homes have health hazards. The students who find mold, water leaks, pests could request a video conference tour where they could show home health experts the conditions and receive advice on which problems their family can fix and whether they should receive help from the health department or the Green and Healthy Home Initiative.
Helping students create effective study areas to study, avoid distractions, and take breaks to keep themselves happy and alert is critical to helping students excel. Dancing, mindfulness, and exercise breaks can help students maintain their focus.
2)Chart exercise, nutrition, sleep, friendships and fun. This is a great way to teach students to collect and chart data, and it can help students build healthy behaviors. When teachers join this “Better You” challenge, they can inspire their students to join them in becoming their personal best.
3)Educate students on COVID-19 health strategies: We are partnering with teaching candidates at Morgan State University to engage students in the science and fun of Covid-19 safety. From why and how to wear a mask, to discovering how well they wash their hands (with ultra violet gel), to Tik-Tock dance challenges on Covid-19 safety tips, students will learn how to lower their risks during Covid-19.
4)Encourage students to teach their peers the best ways to stay safe at home and school. Students are more likely to listen to their cool peers on what they should do, so we will encourage our students to create videos, paintings, dances, and songs to teach their peers how to stay safe during Covid-19.
5)Involve students in planning for the return to schools. Students are able to see problems that teachers and administrators miss, and they are great at finding solutions. If you keep students out of the loop, you will have problems that you could have avoided.
6)Engage students in monitoring health conditions at the school when they return. Students perceive problems quickly and are eager to help solve them. As a science project, students would monitor crowding, ventilation, cleaning, and health behaviors at the school and innovate to improve the safety of students.
COVID-19 is terrible, but it is also a perfect authentic learning project that touches every subject and every student. Let’s not miss this opportunity to help our students learn and thrive.
7)Connect students and families to health care, social services, and food resources. During this pandemic and economic downturn, it is vital that students and their families are connected to the health and social services that they need. Our program will maintain a comprehensive listing of community resources and offer assistance in accessing the help they need.