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Challenge School students learn science communication skills

Students work on vaccine-related projectsSometimes the best lessons are driven by students.

That was the case for Challenge School fifth- and sixth-graders who were studying the immune system and working on websites, podcasts, videos and fact sheets to address myths, misconceptions and questions people have about COVID-19 vaccines. As students were doing research for the project, the FDA gave emergency authorization for the Pfizer vaccine to be used with children ages 12-15 and students and parents were considering their vaccination choices.

“It was clear that students had been asking about vaccines and vaccine hesitancy,” science teacher Tracy Voreis said. “They were asking questions about blood clots and herd immunity, and we wanted them to understand the science behind the vaccines so that they and their families could make informed decisions.”

The project is grounded in academic standards that students should know about how to obtain, evaluate and communicate information as well as how to engage in argument from evidence. Students used sites  recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) to get their information and shared their findings via podcasts, websites, fact sheets or videos. Since students were asked to keep their audiences engaged, several students used popular programs such as Scratch or Minecraft to share scientific information about antigens, antibodies and mRNA to make the data approachable to all. Students had to also communicate claims about the vaccines and back up their conclusions with researched evidence.

Many of the students enjoyed the project, sharing that it was interesting to learn about the subject and help others learn more.

“It was fun to see some of these ridiculous accusations that people all over the world are making,” sixth-grader Samantha Foster said. “The project was very useful. It tells you that you can't believe everything you hear or see on the internet.”

Students work on vaccine-related projects“I enjoyed being able to educate people,” fifth-grader Lily Nadeau added. “ I learned that myths are usually started online and did some myth-busting. Now I won't fall for the myths and lies.”

Students were also interested in learning about the specifics of the science, as fifth-grader Stuti Katrodiya shared.

“I learned that mRNA vaccines are decades old and are studied for different viruses,” Katrodiya explained. “I think that this was useful for me because I learned a lot about vaccines, and I am able to know if certain myths, misconceptions or questions are real or not through research.”

“I learned more about why the COVID-19 vaccine is important,” fifth-grader Ikran Abdullahi said. “I also learned what the vaccines do and why two doses are important. I learned about myths, questions and misconceptions about Sars-Cov2.”

Ultimately, students said that they felt rewarded by the opportunity to learn about something that was currently impacting them and the ability to gain research skills.

“I enjoyed learning about a current event that is disturbing us all,” fifth-grader Sanaaya Desai said. “I was excited when I got to choose a myth and research about it, because in general I love to research things! I also really liked this project because I have never done this in any of my former schools. This project is so unique. This project is teaching me about current events and it is teaching me about things that I am going through.”


Posted 5/27/21.