Students enrolled in Innovation in Biology during the Spring 2021 semester were learning during a time of unprecedented cooperation in science innovation with the development of several vaccines against the SARS-CoV2 virus. “I knew that I wanted to engage students in the course with the rapidly developing science of the pandemic and vaccine development, but how to do that was the question”, says Dr. Rebecca Roberts, who taught the course. In January she decided to simply put a placeholder in the syllabus that said “COVID project”.
She chose to empower the students to take the reins on their own learning. Students brainstormed what they wanted to learn, teams were put in charge of gathering and synthesizing information about the topics and then teaching the rest of the class. Ultimately, students submitted proposals for final projects that would illustrate their learning and engage their creativity. The diversity of project proposals was broad. Students developed podcasts, infographics, wrote an editorial for the Grizzly, and several worked with the Ursinus Communications team on the vaccine education campaign. Liz Burke, Jess Rogers, and Bri Valerio proposed to develop a “game” that would teach elementary and middle-school students about the virus, how it’s spread, and how vaccines and masks work to reduce the spread. Many drafts later, their “Pandemic Pandemonium Teacher Resource” is complete. They’ve marked it with a Creative Commons License to allow any educator access to it. Their next goal is to get it out to educators so that the playing and learning can begin.