student working on a PBL project from home

We know that a great way to create engaging projects is to connect to current events.

Whether school is closed or open, it’s likely that many of your students will be experiencing anxiety and distraction in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and will be following the situation closely. While the pandemic is disruptive, it also offers opportunities for authentic and relevant student learning.

PBLWorks National Faculty member Ben Owens suggests teachers “look at their standards and identify connection points to generate driving questions” such as:

  • What is the best way for governments to respond to a pandemic?
  • How has disease affected society throughout history?
  • What are the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and other infections?
  • What mathematical tools can be used to help predict the spread of infectious disease?
  • What communication tools could help prevent the spread of misinformation?

Last year, PBLWorks created the Pandemic high school math project.

This project invites students to learn about how communicable diseases spread and the importance of containment.

National Faculty member Jason Ernest Feldman suggests that teachers build on this project idea with the following ideas and resources:  

As we often talk about, PBL is a pedagogy that prepares students with the knowledge and skills they will need to face an unknown future.

The COVID-19 situation reminds us that this unknown future is always close at hand. In addition to building skills, PBL promotes values like collaboration, community care, empathy, creative problem solving, and flexibility, all of which are essential for addressing crises like global pandemics.

Here at PBLWorks, we are grateful for the resilience, flexibility, creativity, and love with which teachers are responding to current challenges. Onward!