How we prepared our children for COVID-19
Getting creative and building resilience: supporting children in understanding COVID-19
Maara House is a progressive primary school nestled in the heart of Cape Town. At Maara House, children decide what they learn. Our child-led learning approach creates a culture of compassion and awareness and is the best way for children to understand themselves and have agency in their world.
So what does this mean in practice? Let’s go back to March 13th–16th and take a look at how our school responded to COVID-19 as an emergent context for learning in which children had agency.
Children and parents arrived and are required to sanitize before entering the school building. Many of the children came in sharing news “Corona is now Cape Town.”, “You have to wash your hands’ lots and not touch your face!” and “I’m scared of the virus.”.
That morning we prioritized discussing and sharing our understanding of COVID-19. As part of our approach, we document children’s dialogue. Here is what they had to share:
Teacher G: What do we know about the coronavirus?
E: It is a very big flu that the whole world can get.
K: I heard our president, Cyril Ramaphosa, talk on the radio. We might have to close schools because of the coronavirus.
N: Coronaviruses are actually a group of viruses, but the one we are worried about is called COVID-19.
A: My brother’s school had to close because of the coronavirus.
R: I feel scared because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
M: It’s very important to make sure grannies and grandpas don’t get it; their immune systems aren’t strong like kids’.
K: Maybe we can paint what we think the flu looks like and what COVID-19 looks like?
That’s where our exploration began with drawing and painting what we imagined different viruses to look like. While painting, we observed the children having lively conversations and posing interesting questions in trying to understand the spreading pandemic.
On Sunday, March 15th, Cyril Ramaphosa’s announced school closures. We quickly changed focus for the week; by creating space for the children to make sense of their rapidly changing reality. Although COVID-19, is something we have little control over, we wanted to support the children in taking ownership of the things they could control by creating interest aligned experiences through which children could build their knowledge about the virus.
Children could choose to create comics with COVID-19 fighting hero’s…
Or cardboard engineer innovative solutions for communicating during self-distancing.
In Cape Town, on the evening of March 15th, a wildfire burnt the slopes of Table Mountain, the city bowl’s horizon was aflame as the South Easter howled and Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of all schools in South Africa. For many children it is an incredibly trying time that requires adults to ask what it is that we will model in the way we show up?
It’s normal for children to be scared and, it’s okay for them to express this. How we respond is important, we need not say “Everything will be okay!” rather we should model compassionately showing up for children in the context of chaos. By doing this, our children gain practice in navigating big emotions and learn to articulate their needs in the face of adversity. Ultimately, when we show up we, create opportunities to develop resilience.
We know parents are concerned that their children aren’t learning during the lockdown. We also know that navigating all the online resources can be overwhelming so Maara House and Pukka School are putting together weekly curated resource lists and activities for children to self-directed their learning! Join our Curious Kids’ Club for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown.