The goal of this interactive storytelling experience is to put the reader in a character’s shoes and help them to understand some of the challenges that this character is struggling with during the pandemic, think about some of the tough decisions that need to be made, and recognize some of the consequences that might result from those choices.
Along the way, authors will gain scientific understanding of the Covid-19 virus and its far-reaching impacts, develop systems thinking skills, and cultivate empathy for others.
We have provided resources for both teachers and students to get started.
With the COVID-19 pandemic up-ending any sense of normal in the K-12 classroom in March 2020, we saw an opportunity to create a truly interdisciplinary learning experience that weaves together social-emotional learning, science, and language arts to leverage the pandemic as a ‘teachable moment’ for students to reflect on system connectedness.
The result is an interactive storytelling project called Pandemic Pathways targeted at students in grades 3-12. Using the provided resources, students will…
Gain an understanding of the COVID-19 virus and its impacts through games and news stories
Map cause-and-effect relationships and feedback loops in Loopy, an easy and fun online system modeling tool
Discuss and reflect on the impact of the pandemic on daily decisions and repercussions on our lives and the lives of others
Craft a story about a character that is working to stay safe and enjoy life during the COVID-19 pandemic to bring student understanding of COVID-19 and complex systems to life
We hope you find the Pandemic Pathways resources to be useful in supporting a fun and interdisciplinary experience for your students. If you use the resources and would like to provide feedback, we would love to hear from you!
Helping your students get started
We have provided self-paced resources for students. The resources are sequenced so that students can...
- Learn the science - play games, read news articles, and draw system models to better understand the Covid-19 virus and its impacts
- Be creative - Write a story (based on the science they have learned) about a character working to stay safe and enjoy life during the Covid-19 pandemic
You may want to help students to make a few key decisions before they start writing. We have provided the decision tree below to help students decide if they want to write a story with a single ending or multiple endings and if they'd like to write it by hand or on a computer.
Pandemic Pathways provides an interdisciplinary learning experience that weaves together social-emotional learning, science, and English language arts to leverage the pandemic as a ‘teachable moment’ for students to reflect on system connectedness.
In the sections below, we describe how the project is aligned with elements of Nebraska’s College and Career Ready Science and ELA Standards and development of students’ social and emotional (SEL) competencies.
Supporting ELA instruction
To focus on essential instructional content for students in grades 3-12 in ELA, we have provided Pandemic Pathways resources that support…
- Keeping grade level complex text at the center
- Building knowledge across content areas
We center this instructional content by encouraging students to read news articles about how people from many different backgrounds are experiencing the pandemic. We provide links to articles on Newsela because it is free to use (but it does require an account to access articles).
We selected this platform because it allows students to access a variety of grade-level texts with embedded instructional approaches for teachers. You may need to check with your school administrators or technology support staff to ensure access to this website for your students or find a suitable alternative.
The project also offers a creative outlet for students to apply what they have learned about diverse pandemic life experiences to write a story of their own.
Supporting science instruction
During their writing research, students can explore how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted various elements of daily life and model these system interactions using an online tool called Loopy which is free and incredibly easy to use. This approach aligns with instructional shifts in science education by emphasizing crosscutting concepts (CCC’s) including cause-and-effect and systems and system models.
These crosscutting concepts are important throughlines in scientific thinking and are essential to establish early. Even at the third-grade level, Nebraska students are asked in the standards to routinely identify and test cause-and-effect relationships and use them to explain change. The Loopy tool provides a robust and intuitive way for students to build grade-level understanding of overarching scientific concepts.
Supporting social-emotional learning
As students read conduct research and then craft their stories, there are ample opportunities to support students in growing their social and emotional skills. Some suggested approaches include:
- Highlighting perspective-taking with informational text (such as news articles) to highlight multiple perspectives, or investigate claims, purpose, and reasoning of an author or topic.
- Encourage students to draw on their emotional and empathetic skills as they express their thoughts, feelings, ideas, and arguments through their writing and storytelling.
- Support student choice and self-regulation by allowing authors to write either single-ending or multiple-ending stories, craft their stories by hand or by typing them on a computer, and offer the option to record a read-aloud of their story via Flipgrid (especially useful for younger students).
Single ending stories (non-branching)Single-ending stories may be especially appropriate for upper-elementary students whose writing is shorter in length and less complex than authors with more writing experience. We also understand that young authors may not be adept at typing their stories on a computer and may feel more comfortable writing their story by hand.
Multiple ending stories (branching)
Multiple-ending stories are generally well-suited for older students whose writing is longer or more complex. This story format is used in Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books where the reader is given choices throughout the story that lead to different endings or outcomes.
Several good story-writing editors are available. We have provided resources to use either Twine or Stories for School and lay out some of the benefits and trade-offs of these platforms below.
- Twine is a browser-based story editor that does not require students to sign in or create an account. Stories are saved directly in the web browser allowing students to work on a story and come back to it later as long as they are working on the same device and using the same browser (such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc.). Twine is easy enough for inexperienced authors to start with and makes it easy for students to author increasingly complex stories with variables as they become more comfortable with this authoring tool.
- Stories for School is browser-based story editor and is a good option if a teacher would like more oversight of the stories that students are writing. Teachers can set up a classroom and provide students with a classroom code to join and share their stories. Students are not required to sign in using an email address but will need to choose a username and password to use the platform and return to their saved story. A benefit of this platform is that it allows students to add pictures or video to their stories without having to use any complicated computer code.
Using Stories for Schools
Introduction to Stories for School
Adding students to your classroom
Writing a story
Pandemic Pathways is an interactive storytelling project that offers you a chance to...
- Learn more about the Covid-19 virus and its impacts
- Explore how many different people are experiencing the pandemic
- Craft a story about a character that is working to stay safe and enjoy life during the Covid-19 pandemic
We hope that along the way, you will gain scientific understanding of the Covid-19 virus and its far-reaching impacts, develop systems thinking skills, and cultivate empathy for others. To get started, you can use the resources provided.