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Incorporating Coronavirus Stress into Child Development Classes

  • 1.  Incorporating Coronavirus Stress into Child Development Classes

    Posted 03-31-2020 06:35
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    Hi All,
    Is anyone else trying to incorporate the current crisis into their classes? In my child development class, they were supposed to do an observation project at our lab school on campus but obviously that can't happen so I switched to trying to think about whether we could incorporate thinking about how to support youth during this time. I came up with the attached paper in its place to get students to apply the principles of child development to the current situation. 

    Obviously there are so many challenges that youth will be facing with no school, no friends, and the general stress that they must be experiencing vicariously through parents and directly. Are others incorporating the current situation (and particularly the current situation as it relates to youth and children) it into their classes? If so, how? 


    Matthew Mulvaney
    Syracuse University
    Syracuse NY


  • 2.  RE: Incorporating Coronavirus Stress into Child Development Classes

    Posted 04-06-2020 18:45
    Edited by Robey Champine, PhD 04-06-2020 18:46

    Hi Matt,

    Great topic! This pandemic is certainly at the forefront of everyone's minds and I think we would be remiss to not address it on some level in our teaching and mentoring. As a professor in the field of public health, my colleagues and I are using it as a key vehicle to convey key concepts and theories that we want students to learn. Here are some examples of things we have done, which may be adapted to be more suitable for students in child development:

    • Had students critically analyze and discuss health statistics from the WHO, NIH, CDC, states, etc.
    • Incorporated relevant questions into exams and writing assignments. For example, how might creating a community coalition around a public health issue like immunizations assist a local community in dealing with a public health crisis like the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic?
    • Held a Zoom meeting simulation in which each student was assigned to be a member of a state HIV prevention coalition. Students had to figure out a new funding formula and priorities for local public health departments due to cuts at the federal level to HIV prevention funds. In setting up the simulation, the professor briefly lectured about how the simulation was a common problem in public health, such that as priorities change, things move to the back burner and funding and interest decline. The professor explained how what happened with HIV prevention funding in the module exercise also appeared to have occurred in the Ebola and pandemic preparedness funding and preparation and likely led to the slower response by the federal government in the current pandemic crisis. The professor explained that this is why public health leaders need to keep public health issues on the front burner and use every opportunity to promote funding for public health issues.
    • Had students watch the film Contagion and reflect on its relevance to the current pandemic.
    • For a final writing project, had students propose a new health program or intervention and reflect on relevant lessons learned from the response to the current pandemic.
    • Added relevant news and content to electronic course announcements.
    • Added questions to a Zoom discussion session so that students could discuss in real time how the situation was affecting them.
    • Created a discussion forum in which students were asked to share their experiences with the response to the pandemic and their general feelings about what is happening. The professor did it to show that he hadn't forgotten about his students and to acknowledge that they may be struggling and to reaffirm that he was ready to help if they needed it. 

    Clearly, some of these assignments and activities are less readily translatable to child development. I do think it is important, though, to gauge the extent to which our students feel comfortable discussing and reflecting on the current pandemic. Some students may see their classes as an escape from the constant barrage of troubling news and, thus, expecting them to confront this issue in their classes could be stressful. Conversely, a nice feature of online teaching is that it affords different opportunities for students' collective and individual reflection. Thus, we can still create a space for students who wish to engage in discussion of this issue while respecting the feelings of those who do not. Just some thoughts. I would love to hear what others are doing! 

    Note: I would like to thank my colleagues in the MSU Division of Public Health (in particular, John Clements, Mark Valacak, Frances Downes, and Lydia Merritt) for their feedback in preparing this post.   


    Robey B. Champine, PhD, MS, MPH
    Assistant Professor of Public Health
    Michigan State University | College of Human Medicine | Division of Public Health

  • 3.  RE: Incorporating Coronavirus Stress into Child Development Classes

    Posted 04-08-2020 08:33
    That is great! Thanks to you and your colleagues for sharing- really thorough and comprehensive. I could see using (or adapting) these approaches to several of my classes and see how they can be used in many others.

    Matthew Mulvaney
    Syracuse University
    Syracuse NY

  • 4.  RE: Incorporating Coronavirus Stress into Child Development Classes

    Posted 04-08-2020 10:10

    Hi Robey and Matt,

    Robey, thanks for sharing this nice list of activities to consider. I could really see using the first part of the list the next time I teach Lifespan Development. I have been using your last point in my Child Development course and have an extra credit discussion board each week. I've enjoyed hearing about how students are responding to the pandemic and to the pivot to online learning. I have seen on another forum that instructors are surprised that students are still working. I am finding that many of my students are still working, some even working more hours now. That is helpful for understanding that the pandemic does not necessarily mean that students now have increased time to juggle these new demands. I do wish I was hearing from more of my students though. I made the discussions extra credit, not mandatory, because I didn't think it fair to add something to their grading rubric that wasn't there before.

    Matt, I think that thinking about how to support youth emotionally at times like these is incredibly important. I had already covered the social/emotional topics in my child development course when we stopped face to face teaching. Now that we are in the cognitive section of the course, I have been focusing on children's cognitive abilities at different ages. There is a resource I had already been using when covering Piaget that talks about how young children interpret the news. For example, young children who have difficulty with abstract concepts may not understand probabilities (e.g., that a tornado or violent event is unlikely to happen to them). However, the pandemic is so very different as it is affecting all of us. I think that understanding how children might think about and process these events can help with the emotional support we provide them.

    Virginia Tompkins
    The Ohio State University-Lima
    Lima OH