Coronavirus Challenge Activity Archive

Vermont students learned from home in spring 2020. We created the Good Citizen Coronavirus Challenge to help! It focused on history, news literacy and community engagement — all subjects that are helping us get through these tough times.

Below is an archive of activities from the Coronavirus Challenge.

Week #1, April 8-15

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Watch (or rewatch) the 2016 movie Hidden Figures, available to stream on YouTube premium, Google Play, iTunes and Hulu. Common Sense Media says it’s appropriate for ages 10+: See review here.

After watching the movie, tell us about the scene that stood out most to you. Had you heard about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan or Mary Jackson before?

Find more activities related to the movie on the NASA website, in a section called “From Hidden Figures to Modern Figures.”

News Literacy

Take the Get Smart About COVID-19 quiz and the Fighting Falsehoods on Social Media quiz from the nonprofit News Literacy Project and report your scores. 

Did any answers surprise you? Tell us, in your own words, what you learned.

News Literacy Project logo

Community Engagement

Make a creative thank you message to healthcare workers or first responders who are helping to keep us safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This can be a drawing, a letter, a video or any other kind of art form you choose. To be eligible for a prize entry, the art must be something we can share publicly on the Kids VT and Seven Days websites and via social media. You can also share it yourself using the hashtag #ThanksHealthHeroes.

Week #2, April 15-22

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History

Have you heard of the Dust Bowl? During the 1930s, the midwest and western states known as the Great Plains experienced a 10-year drought that coincided with the Great Depression. Giant dust storms made up of topsoil from farms swept the land. 

Activity: Watch these short PBS video clips about the Dust Bowl. They’ll give you an idea of what this terrible time was like. 

Then listen to American folk singer Woody Guthrie’s most famous Dust Bowl ballad,  “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You.” This version is sung by Pete Seeger, but there are many other versions available online. Guthrie survived the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression and documented these times in his songs. He shared them all over the country, and they live on today as a record of how Americans endured during this tough time.

Write your own poem or song about the pandemic you’re living through right now. What are some things you’ll remember about this time? Send us the text of your poem or song, or a recording of you performing it that we can share.

Keep exploring:

News Literacy

When searching for information online, it’s important to remember that search engines like Google don’t always deliver the most accurate and helpful information first.

Activity: Watch this short video about “click restraint,” then try searching for information about a topic using Google. Describe in your own words what you’ve learned from this exercise.

Community

Activity: Make a colorful sign to put in your window or in your yard that shares a hopeful message with your neighbors or people passing by, then send us a photo of your sign.

This article from People magazine reports on children sharing rainbow signs, and includes a link to a “Rainbow Connection” Google map. Looks like there aren’t any entries from Vermont… yet.

Week #3, April 22-29

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Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Watch a movie: The Apollo 13 mission to the moon launched on April 11,1970 — 50 years ago this month. On April 13, the astronauts reported a problem. An oxygen tank had ruptured, and the command module was in trouble — 200,000 miles from earth.

The 1995 movie Apollo 13 recounts the mission and NASA’s desperate scramble to save the astronauts using only the materials on board the spacecraft. Watch the movie on Hulu, or rent it on YouTube, iTunes or Google Play. Common Sense Media says this film is appropriate for ages 12+ (kids say 11+). Read the review here

Tell us: To get home, the astronauts had to use some of the items on their spacecraft in new ways. They had to improvise under pressure. You’ve been confined to your house for about a month now. Have you found a new way to use anything around your house that you wouldn’t have thought of if not for the pandemic? How have you, like the astronauts, improvised?

Explore more:

News Literacy

Listen to a Podcast: In 2018, a group of tech industry veterans launched the Center for Humane Technology, a nonprofit organization devoted to improving our digital devices and technology platforms to prioritize things like democracy and our shared well-being (as opposed to optimizing their ability to keep us glued to the screen).

In 2019, the group started a podcast, Your Undivided Attention. Every single episode is worth your time, but for this week’s Challenge, we’d like you to listen to Episode 5, From Russia With Likes, Part 1: “Today’s online propaganda has evolved in unforeseeable and seemingly absurd ways; by laughing at or spreading a Kermit the Frog meme, you may be unwittingly advancing the Russian agenda. These campaigns affect our elections integrity, public health, and relationships. In this episode, the first of two parts, disinformation expert Renee DiResta talks with Tristan and Aza about how these tactics work, how social media platforms’ algorithms and business models allow foreign agents to game the system, and what these messages reveal to us about ourselves.”

After listening, tell us, in your own words, what you learned. Why isn’t it a good idea to share memes on social media if you don’t know where they came from?

Explore more:

Community

Make a Poem Sign: April is National Poetry month. Copy a favorite poem on a piece of paper or poster board and put it outside your house where friends, neighbors or passersby can see it. It could be a famous poem,one you love or even one you have written. Be sure to include the title of the poem and the author’s name. 

Take a picture of your poem sign, and tell us why you chose this poem. What does it mean to you? What message are you hoping it sends to those who see it? 

Explore more:

Week #4, April 29-May 6

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

Year without a Summer: In the early 1800s, many Vermonters were farmers. They planted crops and raised animals to provide food for their families. But in 1816, the summer growing season never arrived. There was snow in June. In August, cold weather froze garden plants and killed the corn and hay needed to feed farm animals. A drought made matters even worse.

Vermonters didn’t know that the eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia, spread ash into the atmosphere. The clouds blocked the sun all around the world, causing the unusual weather.

Learn more about this extraordinary chapter in Vermont’s history:

Activity: Vermonters wrote about the summer of 1816 in letters and diaries. On June 8, 1816, Rufus Hovey from Brookfield wrote, “Froze all day. Ground covered with snow all day. Ground froze five or six nights. All the trees on the high land turned black.” Historians read these primary sources to learn from the people who experienced the difficult time. 

Write three journal entries this week to describe what is happening during this time. You don’t have to share all of your entries with us, but please tell us about a few of the things you noticed and recorded.

Explore more: After the “year without a summer,” many Vermonters left the state and moved to New York and the midwest in hopes of finding better weather for farming. Look at the census records for your town to see how the population changed. 

News Literacy

What are some common mistakes people make when evaluating information online? What elements are important to consider when deciding if information is trustworthy? 

These are critical questions for citizens of any democracy, but they’re even more vital now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when anyone can publish anything online and send it instantly anywhere in the world. 

To help students (and adults!) develop the skills they’ll need to evaluate information online, the Stanford History Education Group has created the Civic Online Reasoning curriculum. We encourage you to look through their materials to find lessons that appeal to you.

Activity: Crash Course Video #1: Introduction to Navigating Digital Information gives a good overview of the topics covered in the COR curriculum. Watch this 13-minute video and tell us, in your own words, what you learned. Did anything in the video surprise you?

Explore more: Want to keep going? Browse all of the available COR Crash Course videos. Lots of timely lessons here!

Community

In 2018, Vermont teen Ethan Sonneborn became the youngest person ever to run for Governor of Vermont; he was one of several candidates running in the Democratic primary, hoping to become the Democratic nominee. His campaign drew national media attention.

Ethan got into the race because he wanted to increase civic participation, especially among young people. Brooklyn-based filmmaker Alexis Neophytides chronicled Ethan’s campaign in a recently released 16-minute documentary. 

Activity: Watch the short film about Ethan and his campaign. Ethan was interested in politics, but running for office isn’t the only way to get involved and make a difference in your community. Reflect on your own involvement.

Tell us:

  • How have you made connections with people in your community?
  • What are you doing to participate in and help your community?
  • How do you think you could be more involved?

Explore more: Ethan is not the only teen who has run for statewide office.

Week #5, May 6-13

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Last week’s history activity about the “Year Without a Summer” was so popular we decided to extend it, to encourage more participants to complete it. If you submitted this activity last week, it’s OK to do it again! We think you’ll appreciate having written records of this time.

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

Year without a Summer: In the early 1800s, many Vermonters were farmers. They planted crops and raised animals to provide food for their families. But in 1816, the summer growing season never arrived. There was snow in June. In August, cold weather froze garden plants and killed the corn and hay needed to feed farm animals. A drought made matters even worse.

Vermonters didn’t know that the eruption of Mount Tambora, a volcano in Indonesia, spread ash into the atmosphere. The clouds blocked the sun all around the world, causing the unusual weather.

Learn more about this extraordinary chapter in Vermont’s history:

Activity: Vermonters wrote about the summer of 1816 in letters and diaries. On June 8, 1816, Rufus Hovey from Brookfield wrote, “Froze all day. Ground covered with snow all day. Ground froze five or six nights. All the trees on the high land turned black.” Historians read these primary sources to learn from the people who experienced the difficult time. 

Write three journal entries this week to describe what is happening during this time. You don’t have to share all of your entries with us, but please tell us about a few of the things you noticed and recorded.

Explore more: After the “year without a summer,” many Vermonters left the state and moved to New York and the midwest in hopes of finding better weather for farming. Look at the census records for your town to see how the population changed. 

News Literacy

When you search for information online, how do you evaluate the results you find? To help students (and adults!) develop the skills they’ll need to evaluate information online, the Stanford History Education Group has created the Civic Online Reasoning curriculum. 

One of the skills it teaches is a practice called “lateral reading.” Lateral means “from the side.” Instead of reading an unfamiliar website from top to bottom, the COR curriculum suggests that you first try seeking out other sources to determine the trustworthiness of the information.

Activity: Watch two short videos about lateral reading: this 3-minute introduction, and this 13-minute “Crash Course.” Afterward, tell us in your own words what you’ll do differently next time you search for something online.  

Explore more: Want to keep going? Browse all of the available COR Crash Course videos. Lots of timely lessons here!

Community

For more than a month, Vermonters have been staying at home and keeping physically distant from others to slow the spread of COVID-19. This means we don’t often see our friends and neighbors — or anyone, really. It has been a very lonely and isolating time for some people, who have only been leaving the house to go shopping or to go for a walk in the neighborhood or on nearby nature trails.

Activity: Send a message of hope to your neighbors and others in your community by painting a rock and leaving it for others to find. Paint colorful designs or positive messages on your rock. Looking for some inspiration? See pictures of rocks others have painted in the Vermont Rocks Facebook group.

Explore more:

Week #6, May 13-20

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

1927 Flood: In early November 1927, Vermont received nine inches of rain in two days. Rivers flooded, bridges washed away, and houses filled with water. Lieutenant Governor Hollister Jackson was one of the 84 Vermonters who died in the flood.

After the 1927 flood, Vermonters worked together to rebuild. Workers fixed the roads and built new bridges. They built dams to help control flooding in the future. Vermont towns used money from the state and US government to repair the damage. In January 1928, Governor Weeks announced that Vermont was “ready for business.”

Activity: Herbert Hoover visited Vermont after the flood in 1927. He said, “I have seen Vermont at its worst and Vermonters at their best.” What do you think he meant by this? Could the same be said about Vermonters during the Covid-19 pandemic? Can you give an example from today about Vermonters “at their best?”

Explore more: In 2011, rain from Tropical Storm Irene caused similar damage. Watch this short video for the song, “The Spirit of Vermont.” Ask someone you know what they remember about Tropical Storm Irene.

News Literacy

Practice Good Information Hygiene: When we go out in public right now, we need to wash our hands and practice good hygiene. It’s also really important to practice good hygiene when it comes to sharing information online. The nonprofit News Literacy Project outlines the four steps of good information hygiene on its website. These are especially important to remember when you’re viewing content on social media, because it’s easy to share content there without knowing much about where it came from. 

Activity: Read about the four steps of good information hygiene. Make a creative sign or poster inspired by these tips that we can share with adults, to help remind them why they should practice good information hygiene.

Explore more: The News Literacy Project has developed an extensive curriculum called Checkology designed to teach news literacy skills. It’s free to use during the pandemic. Ask an adult for help signing up for it, and you’ll have access to a wide variety of lessons.

News Literacy Project logo

Community

Many local businesses are struggling during the pandemic. As you might have heard, Governor Scott is allowing some of them to open up again (in a limited way) on Monday, May 18.

Activity: Find a local business where you like to shop, or where you’ve bought something useful, or that has supported you in some way — through your family, your sports teams, your church, your school, your scouting troop or another organization — and buy something from them to let them know that you support them, too, during this tough time. Can’t afford to buy something now? Tell them how much you have appreciated their support in the past, and that you hope to shop there again soon, either via email or social media or when you shop there (while social distancing). Find a list of Burlington-area businesses operating online here.

Explore moreEncourage others to support local businesses, too. For every dollar you spend at a small business, 67 cents stays in the community, according to a 2018 Small Business Economic Impact Study commissioned by American Express. Buying from a local business is an investment in your community. 

Week #7, May 20-27

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

Morris Levine from Burlington
Morris Levine from Burlington (National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

History

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

Child Labor

A century ago, Lewis Hine took photographs of children who worked in factories, mills and lumber yards. Other children sold newspapers or worked on farms. Hine worked for the National Child Labor Committee which used the photographs to advocate for laws to end child labor.  

Addie Card was 12 years old and working in a cotton mill when her picture was taken in 1910. The census record shows that she was living with her grandmother, her uncle, her sister and four young cousins. Think about why she might have needed to work in a mill to earn money. What challenges might her family have faced? Look at the information for some of the other children. Why might the children have wanted to have jobs? 

Activity: Today, labor laws prevent children from working and limit hours for teenagers, so children can’t go to work to make money. But children can help out in economically challenging times. What can you do to help your family or others in times of need?

Explore more: Elizabeth Winthrop, the author of Counting on Grace, used the picture of Addie Card on the cover of her book.  Learn more about the real Addie and other children in the photos.

News Literacy

How do you know what information to trust? This is an important question right now, not just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and we need to follow reliable, science-based guidance to keep ourselves and our communities safe, but also because it has never been easier to create and share false or misleading information. Anyone with a smartphone can take photos and videos and share them instantly with people around the globe. Sometimes that information is trustworthy, sometimes it’s not. 

People create and share false and misleading information for many reasons: to play a prank, to sell products or make money, to confuse voters, to make people angry or afraid, or to create chaos. 

The first step in figuring out whether you can trust information is asking: Where did it come from? Who created it and why? This is true of information in any medium.

Activity: Pick up a copy of your local print newspaper (it could be a daily, a weekly or a monthly paper). Find the page that tells you who created the paper. Is there a list of names of the paper’s staff? Is there an address? A phone number? An email address? Where is the paper distributed, or circulated? How often is it published?

Now go to a trustworthy and reliable news website, like VTDigger.org or vpr.org. Can you find this same information online? Tell us what you found.

Explore more: If you or your parents have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, look through the news feed for a meme or an article posted by someone in their network. Try to look for the same information about the meme or the article. Who created it and why? Can you find out?

Read this article from online fact-checking website Snopes.com that explains how two Ukrainians created a Facebook page called “World USA” that was targeted at older Americans.

Community

Activity: Help lift your neighbors’ spirits by creating an art installation in nature for passersby to enjoy. Send us a photo of your work, and tell us if you heard anything from neighbors about it.

This project is inspired by British landscape artist Andy Goldsworthy

Explore more:

Week #8, May 27-June 3

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

History

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

Clarina Howard Nichols 

Clarina Howard Nichols believed that having the right to vote would help women and their children lead better lives. In 1852, Nichols was the first woman to speak in front of the Vermont Legislature. She advocated for the lawmakers to give women the right to vote on issues related to schools. They didn’t listen.

It took the work of many other suffragists for Vermont women to gain the right to vote in school elections (in 1880) and in all elections (1920). Imagine fighting for decades to change a law you thought was wrong.

Watch “Debates in the People’s House” (2004), including a reenactment of Clarina Howard Nichols’ speech in the Vermont State House. Read more about Clarina Howard Nichols on the Vermont History Explorer website. 

Activity: The Vermont Statehouse is closed now, and the Vermont legislature is meeting virtually during this pandemic. You can watch their sessions online.  

If you could give a speech to legislators at the Statehouse, what would you say? Write a speech or a letter to your legislator about an issue that’s important to you.

Explore more: The Vermont Suffrage Centennial Alliance is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.

News Literacy

What is the most important news in your community? That might depend on which media outlet you’re watching, listening to or reading. Different news organizations choose to focus on different stories. They determine which stories to emphasize, and which stories to report on in detail. Their decisions often reflect the medium they use — TV, radio, digital or print.

Activity: Watch, listen to or read stories on a single topic from two or more different media outlets. Pay attention to the topic, as well as the way in which it’s presented. What sources do they cite? What visuals or audio elements do they use to tell the story? Does the story thoroughly explain the issue, or does it skim the surface? In your opinion, which outlet does a better job of telling the story?

Not sure which media outlets to turn to? Here are a few large media outlets that report local news daily. You can also search for your town’s newspaper.

Explore more: Many media outlets allow you to sign up for updates or subscribe to their service. Consider which media outlet you might want to pay attention to regularly.

Community

Since Gov. Scott lifted the stay-at-home order, many people are able to leave their homes to go to work or to do other activities. Some people who are at greater risk from the virus are still staying at home. This includes many elderly people, and those who have health issues that could make them get sicker if they got the virus.

Activity: Do you know someone who is isolating because of their age or health conditions? Now would be a good time to give them a call. Phone or video calls can be a welcome distraction.

Need things to talk about? Start with the weather. Ask about family. Ask about friends. Ask them how they’re spending their time. Tell them how you’re spending your time. 

Explore more: Read this Seven Days article, “For Vermont’s Elders, the Hardest Phase of the Pandemic Is Still to Come.” What are some things you can do to help those who feel isolated? Would they appreciate a bouquet of flowers you picked? A card you made? 

James J. Hasson, 94, flipping through World War II photos at his Cavendish home (Derek Brouwer)
James J. Hasson, 94, flipping through World War II photos at his Cavendish home (Derek Brouwer)

Week #9, June 3-10

Sorry. The deadline to submit contest entries for these activities has passed.
Feel free to complete the activities anytime regardless!

Jeffrey Brace marker

History

Thanks to Vermont Historical Society museum educator and manager Victoria Hughes for providing this activity.

Jeffrey Brace

Boyrereau Brinch, later renamed Jeffrey Brace, was a famous and important African-American Vermonter who lived in Poultney, Vermont more than 200 years ago. Stolen from his home in West Africa by slave traders when he was only 16, Jeffrey Brace fought in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War to gain his freedom from slavery in 1784. 

Even though adults could not be held as slaves in Vermont during that time, Brace and his family faced a lot of harassment, abuse, and threats from their white neighbors. Despite the prejudice he and his family faced, he became a famed abolitionist and went on to narrate his life for a book titled The Blind African Slave, a rare and important source about what life was like for African Americans during this time. Read more about Jeffrey Brace.

Activity: Jeffrey Brace’s story is celebrated with a historic marker in Poultney, Vermont. Use this map to take a virtual tour of the roadside markers or head outside and see some markers in person.

Make a roadside marker (on paper) to tell your life story or the story of someone who inspires you.

Explore more: Learn about African-Americans seeking shelter in Vermont in the 1830s at Rokeby Museum’s Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont exhibit. 

News Literacy

We have two news literacy activities this week. One in which authors unite to help kids handle this tough time, and one that will give you an opportunity to be part of a press conference with Governor Phil Scott.

Activity: Participate in or listen to these events later and tell us what you learned.

Kidlit Community Rally for Black Lives

Join this event put on by award-winning authors Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds, and hosted on the Facebook page for the Brown Bookshelf. Thursday, June 4: K-12 students are invited to join from 7-7:45 p.m. Teachers and educators are invited to continue the conversation from 7:45-8:30 p.m. Says the announcement: “People around the nation are hurting. This is a time to come together and stand up. Our kids need us, and we are here for them.”

Here’s a link to the event on Facebook. If you’re not able to access FB Live, you can tune in via Zoom: at this link: https://scbwi.zoom.us/j/95326915466?pwd=dHMwODJKUmttNTlmZC9PUGVsRHAwZz09

The #KidLit Rally for Black Lives will be recorded for later viewing.

Rally for Black Lives #Kidlit Community

And check this out, from Vermont Public Radio:

Listen this Friday, June 5 at 1 p.m. for a special kid press conference with Gov. Phil Scott on But Why Live!

More info on this event, from VPR:

VPR reporter Peter Hirschfeld will guide us through what a press conference is and how journalists think about what questions to ask. Then Governor Scott will join us for the rest of the hour to field questions from cub reporters (that’s you, Vermont youth!).

Kids can ask about how Governor Scott is responding to COVID-19 or about things that might be important to them as they grow up, like school policies, climate change, how to become a governor and more! 

This program is targeted at students in grades 3-6, but the phone lines will be open to all kids. Students can send written or audio recordings of questions ahead of time to questions@butwhykids.org or call in at 1-800-639-2211 while the program is on the air.

Find out how to tune in here.

Phil Scott at the Good Citizen Launch in 2018
Gov. Phil Scott at the Good Citizen Launch in 2018

Community

This week we ask you to reflect on this quote from Nelson Mandela, who spent more than 27 years in prison for opposing his country’s system of apartheid, which mandated racial segregation. After his release from prison in 1990, he became South Africa’s first democratically elected president, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Start reading more about Mandela’s life here, and here.

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela writes:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

Activity: How can you help others learn to love? Make art or some other kind of statement that you can share publicly that will remind others to love or help them learn.

James J. Hasson, 94, flipping through World War II photos at his Cavendish home (Derek Brouwer)
James J. Hasson, 94, flipping through World War II photos at his Cavendish home (Derek Brouwer)

The Good Citizen Challenge is organized by Burlington-based Seven Days — Vermont’s locally owned, independent newsweekly — and its free monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT, with support from the Vermont Community Foundation and the Evslin Family Foundation.

Vermont Community Foundation
Kids VT
Seven Days

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