Tania Williams, Michael Williams, and Lanetta Koonce lanetta.koonce@lcschools.org

Lauderdale County High School/Lauderdale County School System

Michael Williams, Tania Williams, and Lanetta Koonce in front of Warwick Castle Warwick, UK.

Blog link:  http://deathpaneljourney.blogspot.com/

Brief Description of Proposed Fellowship: 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.

In order to help students understand the impact of diseases on society, it is important that we teach students how diseases spread, how they shape history, and how they influence our culture. This knowledge is vital in understanding current events; in seeing the links between science, history, and the fine arts; and in keeping our students safe from infectious diseases. Through our unit on the Black Death we will teach students how diseases spread, how they impact society’s culture, and how they impact governments. Our ninth grade history, science, and English teachers will investigate how pandemics impact the history and culture of a region by studying the Black Death pandemic in the United Kingdom and learn how diseases spread by touring the CDC in Atlanta. We will visit plague related sites around London, including the London Science Museum’s History of Medicine, which houses a Black Death exhibit, and the museum at St. Bart’s, one of the world’s oldest hospitals. We will visit historic locations impacted by the plague, including the Tower of London, the Globe Theatre, and Windsor Castle. We will also travel to Cosmeston Medieval Village to experience life during medieval times and learn how the culture allowed the spread of disease. We will tour Rochester Castle, where peasants, experiencing worsening conditions due to the plague, revolted and seized control of the castle. We will visit St. Mary’s Church in Ashwell, Hertfordshire, and view where clergymen scratched the death toll from the plague on the walls of the church. Upon returning to Atlanta, we will visit the museum at the Center for Disease Control. There, we will tour the CDC, learning about its role in society, so we can relate the Black Death to current events. With the information gained, we will develop a cross-curricular unit to guide students in understanding disease transmission, the role diseases play in governmental policies and social customs, and the effects of a pandemic on the art and literature of a society.

Career Impact:
We have all witnessed the effects of sickness and death on life. However, do we ever see how they impact society? In the past, our students certainly have not. Our students had trouble connecting illness to its causes, much less seeing how illness shapes our culture. We sought to change this. We knew this information would help students see the impact of diseases on every aspect of their lives, but we were amazed at what we gained from this experience professionally.
* It has improved our ability to craft lessons. Our mindset is now cross-curricular. Instead of just focusing on our subject area, we are looking for ways to pull lessons together from all subject areas. Already, we are discussing developing other units that we can develop and teach together. 
* It has improved our use of technology. We have used technology in ways we never dreamed possible. From using a GoPro for interviews to using Blogger to write about our journey, we now see how vital technology is to our lessons. These skills will allow us to improve future lessons, and we will be teaching the students to use technology as well. 
* It has made us better communicators. Through our experience, we now operate as a team. We have had honest discussions about how to improve our practice and our school. We are more open with our thoughts and opinions and more willing to seek advice from each other. 
* It has allowed us to create life-long contacts. The experts that we interviewed are still sending us useful information! The people we met on our journey are excited and invested in our experience, to the point that we hope to use Google Hangouts or Skype to facilitate a question/answer session with one of the experts.
* It makes us excited about teaching. We cannot wait for school to start so we can share what we learned. To be honest, we refuse to wait until school starts. We are sending out little nuggets of knowledge to our students through social media to help generate excitement and build interest in our project. 
* It has made us feel valued as educators. Yes, we admit we often feel the effects of the "blame the teacher" mentality. The media is quick to publish stories about bad teachers, and our profession has suffered due to this. Our experience has shown that there are people willing to invest in what we do and respect and trust us to develop our own professional development. This investment makes us want to give more to our profession and to the lives of our students.
Classroom/Community Impact:
Since this experience has changed us as educators, it is changing our school and our community. Here are just a few examples:
* Connections. We want to connect our research to everything we teach. We cannot get enough of this topic. We are constantly seeing more things to tie into our experience. One of us went to GenCyber training, a workshop on teaching cybersecurity to students, and now we are going to tie internet diseases into our unit. We would not have made this connection without this experience. Our students will learn about internet hygiene, along with personal hygiene. We also plan to explore disease warfare. This topic was also inspired by our travels and will show students that some diseases are used as tools to destroy countries or people groups. This will tie in well with current events. We even want to investigate water systems, since the Thames had such an impact on the spread of the plague.
* Student knowledge. Of course, our students will study more about diseases and their impact on their lives this fall; however, they are already learning through social media. As we have shared our pictures and experiences on social media, students have asked questions. This is the first time in our teaching careers that students have contacted us during the summer for lesson-related information. They do not even realize that they are leaning. This new dialogue with our students makes them want to learn. They see us as experts now, because they have watched our commitment to learning unfold on their news feed. 
* Community excitement. One of the team members went to the doctor recently. Not only did one of the nurses thank us for incorporating the study of diseases into the curriculum, she also reminded the team member that we should get nurses to help present information to students. Former students and parents have inquired about the unit, offering to assist us throughout the year as we teach the unit. Even the mayor took the time to contact us about the experience and to offer help.
* Colleague interest. Not only are other teachers at our school planning on incorporating our research into their lessons, but several teachers have already started working on their own grant applications. While not all of them will be funded, just dreaming, planning, and writing the application makes us better teachers. In fact, teachers from outside the community have heard about our work and have asked for information about our research and our grant experience.
Open Response:
We are so thankful! This experience has rejuvenated us as teachers. It is so rewarding to see how much interest the project has created. 

Also, we are pleased at how much information we have gathered. The information posted online does not compare with the amount of information available on site. We are still pouring through pamphlets, videos of our interviews, and pictures. We are overwhelmed with teaching materials, which is a wonderful feeling. 

We never dreamed that we would benefit so much from this opportunity. The experience was fun, informative, enlightening, and life-changing. 

We started out thinking that we would improve the lives of our students. We thought that this unit on diseases would help them to make educated choices and provide them with insight as to how society is touched by sickness and death. It will do these things and much more. We never dreamed how the experience itself would shape the way we teach and think. Yet, here we are, changed and much better educators for the experience. 

Your investment will touch our community and the students at our school for years to come.
We discovered that our research was not really about death; it was about helping our students live healthy lives. When it comes down to it, all of education should be about enriching the lives of students.

Last modified: Thursday, March 23, 2017, 4:10 PM