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For my DukeEngage project this summer, I’m currently working on writing a course for middle school students based on communicable disease prevention and transmission, and empowering them to build a prototype health kit using elements of human centered design, which includes a face mask, cleaning solution, hand sanitizer, building a pump for safely distributing soap, etc. While the course itself isn’t specifically based on COVID-19, choosing the lesson content was certainly influenced by the current pandemic and changes we can make to stop the spread and hopefully prevent future outbreaks of communicable diseases. I chose this particular article from the New York Times that talks about how to inform children and teenagers about the pandemic so that they’re educated and aware of what’s going on in the world today. I felt that the content of this article could help me when structuring the course material to include activities and engaging lessons on what could be sensitive material for some students. In the article, Donna De La Cruz stresses the importance of making sure children and teens feel that they themselves have an important role in slowing the spread of disease. Giving them the impression that they have a role in protecting themselves and their families, as well as emphasizing how fighting this virus is a team effort – even if young people are less susceptible to severe disease complications caused by the virus. This is an idea that I’d really like to reinforce in the lesson plans for the course I’m working on – that even if young people with strong immune systems are less likely to become severely ill, their actions and precautions (like frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public) can have a big impact in protecting those in more vulnerable populations (older people, people with preexisting health conditions, etc.) These actions are out of respect for the general public, and out of respect for people who are at heightened risk of infection. One perspective that I felt was missing from this article was how to talk to young people who may have heard dissenting opinions from family members or friends with regards to the severity of the virus. This could be a difficult barrier to education on communicable disease when students’ family members might believe the virus is a hoax, or that precautions like wearing masks don’t have any real impact since they protect the group, not the individual. I think this article could have gone into more detail on how to have these conversations. However, I think this article did a good job of emphasizing how to make general health and safety education meaningful, and how to ensure that younger generations understand the importance of their actions to protect their families and communities. 


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