Year 8 Interdisciplinary Unit 2020
During term 4, our Year 8 LEAP class are conducting an interdisciplinary deep learning unit which incorporates English, Humanities, Math, Digital Technologies and Science disciplines whereby students have to work collaboratively to come up with a solution to a world pandemic. It is based around teachings of the Bubonic Plague from 1300’s. Each student in the class is given a role; whether it be political, medical, IT based or journalistic and they need to work collaboratively to solve or work around a fictional pandemic that they are faced with in current times.
We have been very lucky this year to collaborate with Skype a Scientist to present two sessions to our students. The first Scientist our students met online was Dr Angela Crespo. Dr Crespo works as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in Immunology at the Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, in Boston, USA. She spoke to our students about life as scientist and more specifically about her research in decidual natural killer cells in protecting the foetus from bacterial and viral infections, especially Zika virus and Listeria. She also discussed her more recent efforts in working on inflammation of COVID-19.
The second Scientist we met online was Dr Rieck Bastian Aleksander. Dr Rieck currently works as a Senior assistant in the Machine Learning and Computational Biology in Zurich, Switzerland. He spoke to our students about his career pathway, career highlights, student supervision and lecturing as well as his current research on developing novel machine learning algorithms in the field of personalised medicine.
In meeting these Scientists, students were able to develop a more realistic understanding of the day-to-day work and experiences of a scientist and furthermore our students were able to appreciate and share the passion that each show toward their own work.
This year our Interdisciplinary Project has had a much more tangible connection to world events than in previous years. Although students know they are investigating a fictional pathogen we have dubbed ‘Absolutum Dominium’, their questions and research are relevant to COVID-19 and its impact on each of us. The project has provided an opportunity for students to see themselves as part of the solution as they investigate tangible ways they can contribute to make a positive impact on the world in the near future. In their classes students got to meet professionals working in relevant fields, such as scientists and medical personnel. Also, they have explored ethical issues surrounding the pandemic, engaged in debates about how leaders should approach restrictions and pass legislation that benefits everyone. In their career roles students have learned to research from specific, career- perspectives and this has impacted their learning in many positive ways. Below are a few examples of the students’ learning.
In this incredible project my role is an epidemiologist. This role plays a very important part in the survival of a pandemic. Epidemiologist are key to making a vaccine and cure and researching the disease. As an epidemiologist I have learnt many skills and new information and facts. I have improved my collaboration skills by working with my classmates, especially my science and research group. I took initiative to talk to others and improve my learning and to take necessary research. I have learnt so many new things from research and especially when we got to meet people who must do the same things we are doing now just in the real world. I learnt many things from, Dr. Crespo, Dr. Bastian Reick and Ms. Scalpello (RN). I learnt things like how they collaborate with people in their workplace and even what they do in their jobs. This guided me through what collaboration I might need to do and gave me some extra information I could include into my notes. This project has improved me as a person in my time management skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills and academic skills. I am grateful I could experience this project and that I could learn so much about pandemics and diseases just like the one we are experiencing one right now.
In my role as journalist, I have learnt just how important it is to make sure the public have the right information, so that they do not make misinformed decisions. During the Black Death, people took unreasonable actions, but not always because they wanted to be cruel, but because they did not know what else to do. If I can get the correct information to the public, I can help to prevent illogical decisions and convince people of the right thing to do. If I do this, the Absolutum Dominium disease will not be as dangerous as it could be.
In this project, I was chosen to be a statistician, and I was very happy with that because maths is one of my strengths. My first impression of a statistician was just numbers, numbers and numbers, but that changed throughout the course of the project. In my role as a statistician, I have learnt that statisticians are not just about numbers and graphs, but they also try to identify problems and think of solutions. I learnt that there was a creative element in mathematics and changed my view of it.
My role is the lead nurse and meeting with Ms. Scalpello, a registered nurse (RN) helped me because she explained how important nurses are in COVID – 19. I also learnt how they safely care and treat COVID – 19 patients. I have learnt that nurses aren't just some extras in a hospital but that they are the foundation of a hospital and that they are directly involved with everything relating to patient care. What helped me the most was how Miss Scalpello explained how the treat COVID – 19 patients without getting infected and it was interesting.
Before nurses enter the ward, they enter a room where they put on PPE and the air gets decontaminated. They are also not allowed to bring any personal items into the ward. You can't leave or enter the ward without being sanitized and this information was very helpful because I now have a greater understanding of nurses and how important they are in pandemics.