Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Way Through the Plague

The Death Panel's journey really started over four years ago. In the fall of 2012, a colleague and I barreled down Interstate 65 to Birmingham for a meeting. This would begin a path to success that would occasionally be littered with potholes of rejection and doubt. Our first destination? A meeting at Alabama Public Television regarding professional development grants provided by Fund For Teachers.

At the meeting we were hopeful. We could do this. We could join the ranks of other teachers in the state who were granted the experience of a lifetime. Just the thought of mapping out our own professional development fueled our desire to be better teachers. We recruited, researched, and revised. Then, we waited. In April, our proposal was rejected. No harm done. The experience alone made us better teachers. 

We tried again.  Nope. It didn't happen. Still, we learned and grew as a team. We backed up and reevaluated what we were doing. We asked ourselves what our students needed to learn. What unit topic would draw us together as school? What topic would include the whole community in our studies?

We plotted a new course. This time we let our proposal design be student-driven. Our first idea, the one that had already been rejected twice, did not fit the personality and needs of our current students. We wanted to teach them something practical and something that tied the past to the present. Our answer? Death.

Death and taxes -- we've all heard the cliche. However, is death not the common end? We are born to die. Death riddles our literature and our history. We continued to brainstorm. This time around, it was important that we connect the proposal to science. Where does the theme of death meet the subject areas of history, literature, art, and science? Hello! The answer was clear. The Black Death. We chose to center our proposal around the bubonic plague.

Even now, I remember the rightness that we felt when we settled on our plan. The Black Death could teach us so much. The disease toppled nobles, inspired art and literature, and even gave rise to the middle class. This disease changed the path of human civilization. We would use this pivotal point in history to drive our entire unit. The topic would also allow us to discuss modern issues. We could talk about how the West Nile and Zika viruses affect medicine, governmental policy, and pop culture. We could even discuss the controversy surrounding vaccinations.  

The Death Panel's way was clear. Now, we invite you to join us on our journey. 

Check out our final project description below!

Brief Description of Proposed Fellowship: We will tour the Center for Disease in Atlanta and research historic sites in the United Kingdom related to the Black Death to guide students' understanding of disease transmission, the role diseases play in governmental policies and social customs, and the effects of a pandemic on literature.

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