To the Teacher
This project invites students to connect with students from a neighboring school to share and document their stories of how they’re coping with the uncertainties, frustrations, and upheaval happening in their lives and in the world.
Depending on what students decide, the project may entail students devising surveys or questionnaires or using social media outlets to share strategies or come up with new ones. Students will also complete a culminating project by sharing “lessons learned” in an agreed-upon forum before the Thanksgiving break.
Teachers will set aside 10 minutes during three class periods each week over six weeks to set up the project and then to check in with students on their progress.
Once students begin working with their partner class, they’ll share stories, devise surveys and questionnaires, and review helpful resources on their own time.
During the 10-minute check-ins, students will update teachers on the project, ask questions, and share any concerns. Teachers will also use the check-in time to present audio, video, and print resources (such as those included below) to guide students as they tap into their strengths and coping strategies.
This project uses the principles of project-based learning: Students are encouraged to actively explore real-world problems and challenges; conduct research; look at a problem from multiple angles; collaborate with peers; venture into the unknown by engaging in trial and error; learn from their mistakes, and persevere despite any inherent challenges.
The teacher provides scaffolding and acts as coach, guide, and facilitator of student learning and understanding. The teacher encourages students to strategize, plan, and execute project details and outcomes. The teacher is also encouraged to complete informal formative assessments of student learning and understanding during the check-ins.
This project will work best when teachers allow it to unfold organically, serving as facilitators of student engagement and student learning as students forge connections and collaborate with each other.
It’s important that, early on, students buy into the task of documenting all the ways they’re coping during these challenging times and be open to exploring new coping strategies. Give students as much support as you think they need so that during their time together, instead of focusing on how daunting their challenges seem, they’re learning from each other and drawing on each other’s strengths. Included, for teachers, is a list of positive and negative coping skills. Use this list as an add-on to what students may already have come up with – or if students ask for support or need a refresher about coping strategies they can use.
- Contact and partner with a teacher at a neighboring school.
- Prepare for the first three 10-minute sessions (week 1):
Session 1: Teachers from each class introduce the project to their students and work with them to consider a project name and how they will relate to the other class
Session 2: Students connect with their partner class via Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another suitable online platform; agree on a project name; and map first steps
Session 3: Students work together to devise methods for sharing how they are coping – such as surveys, questionnaires, or social media posts – and perhaps come up with additional ideas. Possible strategies are endless – from positive self-talk to meditation; dance or other physical activity; enjoying or creating music, poetry, or other art; connecting with friends; or working together to address challenges, both personal and societal. A list of strategies is provided below as suggestions teachers can offer after students have brainstormed and come up with their own solutions.
Introducing the Project
In each class, teachers will share the following with students:
Our class is partnering with a class at [SCHOOL] to discuss and document how we’re coping during these chaotic, changing times. [TEACHER AT PARTNERING SCHOOL] is excited about working with our class, and I’m excited about working with them.
You’ll work with our partner class for the next six weeks, and each week you’ll have several short check-in sessions with both teachers. Before the Thanksgiving break, we’d like you to decide how you want to share what you’ve learned and what you gained from your experiences either via social media or some other medium you come up with.
Today we’ll begin by brainstorming how you would like to engage with the other class. We want you to have fun with this as you connect with students from another school who can relate to what you’re experiencing.
Key questions for students from the two classes to consider:
- How are you coping during these chaotic times? What are your strategies for dealing with your current stresses, whatever they are?
- Are there new strategies the two classes can come up with together?
- Are there changes the group could advocate for – in their school, community, or country – that would reduce the stress or address its underlying causes?
- How can you share the strategies with others?
Brainstorm with students:
1) What do you want to call this project? (If students struggle to come up with a name, a working project name might be: How We’re Coping During These Chaotic, Changing Times.) Note that once the classes connect, students will need to decide on which name they prefer or come up with a new name altogether.
2) How do you want to relate to our partner class? How do you want to communicate with them, after our initial online session together?
Exchanging emails may be a good way for students to start. It’s important, though, for students to take ownership of carrying out this project. Ask guiding questions, then allow your students to generate ideas and make decisions. Offering guidance and support is preferable to making decisions for them.
Let’s Get Started
Students and teachers will meet via Google Hangouts, Zoom, or another suitable online platform.
Support students as they:
- Introduce themselves
- Discuss the best way to begin sharing information about the different coping strategies they’re using to get through these challenging times. (This might be through email or another method.)
- Brainstorm ideas for sharing and generating additional information. (Sample ideas: surveys, questionnaires, polls.) Teachers support the brainstorming, serve as a sounding board, and facilitate student learning by posing questions and prompting students to consider a variety of viewpoints and strategies as they engage with each other.
Timeline for Moving Forward
Students meet online to create a rough timeline/outline for how they’ll continue to share their thoughts and ideas about how they’re coping during these challenging times – and perhaps to come up with new strategies together.
They will determine how they’ll communicate consistently and assign tasks to achieve their stated goals. During this session, teachers scaffold by listening to students’ suggestions and offering feedback when warranted.
During the following five weeks, students and teachers meet for 10 minutes three times each week at the beginning of class to check in with students and address any questions, concerns, or observations. Teachers also are encouraged to complete informal formative assessments of student learning and understanding during the check-in and share helpful resources.
If you see that students are stuck focusing on the problems, steer them in the direction of looking for solutions. The videos in the resource list below (and here) may help them in doing this. This list of positive and negative coping skills may also be helpful in guiding students during check-ins.
Support students in creating a culminating event before the Thanksgiving break in which they share what they’ve learned and what they’ve gained from their experiences, either via social media or some other medium they come up with.
In check-in sessions, considering sharing the resources below. Most are created by teens. Also see this pdf version of the resource list. In addition, this list of positive and negative coping strategies may be helpful in guiding students.
The first three videos below are each less than seven minutes and can be shared during the 10-minute check in. The last two longer videos can be assigned to students to watch on their own time.
In November 2019, Angela Chepkwoy spoke about negative thoughts as a bad friend and positive thoughts as a good friend at TEDxYouth@Brookhouse School in Langata, a suburb of Nairobi, Kenya.
In November 2018, Hailey Hultberg, a competitive figure skater, spoke on the importance of positive self-talk at TEDxYouth@ParkCity, an independent event.
In November 2018, Carley Rogers, an 8th-grader at Treasure Mountain Junior High School, spoke about feeling stress over performing well in school and shifting her perspective to that of someone who would give anything to be in her place at TEDxYouth@ParkCity.
In December 2018, Kylie Pilkinton shared her life story and how, despite the obstacles she’s faced, she followed her passion and never gave up. She shares her strategy for finding strength, overcoming challenges and living life to the fullest at TEDxSouthLakeTahoe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4fX1Ah3jrM
Sarah Kay is a poet, performer, educator and the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to entertain, educate and empower students and teachers. In this TED talk, she talks with listeners on seeing the impossible, persevering in the face of difficulties and that the journey to success begins with two words, “I can.”
The print/audio resource “The Power of Positive Emotions” can also be shared during a check-in session. The author writes about the range of emotions we feel, how they’re all useful, and how we can maintain a healthy balance. NOTE: Teachers can print out this article for students or direct them to the option to listen to the audio version of the article.
In addition to the selections below, ask students if they have any go-to songs they turn to and whether they’ve shared those songs with their peers.
“The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
“March March” by the Chicks
Meddling Kids Movement is an international youth-led media organization highlighting young people who are changing the world and encouraging those who want to. The website includes profiles of activists ages 8-19 who are organizing on issues such as gender equity, racial justice, and climate justice.
Brooke Soobrian, a senior at Los Altos High School, founded Cards of Care in April 2020 after reading about how seniors would no longer be able to receive visitors due to shelter-in-places across the country. She wanted to do something small to help brighten their day and spread positivity.