Learning During A Pandemic: A Challenge-A-Day

By Carol Bier

This blog is updated daily - generally evening Pacific time

Week 56!

Day 1. I don't have a challenge for you today. Do you have one for me? I'm hopeful you will send one to arsperspectiva@gmail.com. I need to be inspired!

Day 2. Linen damask - Watch this short video about Dutch linen and dining in the 16th and 17th centuries. See how dinner and a table setting in cosmopolitan Holland in the 17th century differs from your table - how many foods do you recognize? How many aspects of the table setting can you identify? What is different? What foods do we import from Holland today that are represented in these images of the 17th century? 

The Delights of Dining - Linen Damasks from Holland's 'Golden Age' (Abegg-Stiftung Collection, Berne, Switzerland)

Day 3. Muons - Read this article from the New York Times on tiny sub-atomic particles called muons that "could uopend the known laws of physics." Today's challenge is to read the article and address the question "Why?"

A Tiny Particle's Wobble Could Upend the Known Laws of Physics (New York Times, 7 April 2021)

Day 4. Making whey - A two-part challenge: Consider - what is whey? It is a by-product that has many beneficial nutritional uses. Read/watch these entries for making whey, making yogurt, and making cream cheese, and choose two to make today and tomorrow.

How to Make Whey and Five Ways to Use It (Mary's Nest)

How to Make Homemade Yogurt - No Machine Required (Mary's Nest)

How to Make Cream Cheese with Just One Ingredient (Mary's Nest)

Day 5. Making whey - see previous day's challenge.

Weekend challenge: Today's challenge - Why are fats important for our body? How many different kinds of fat can you name? What is the difference between Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids and what are the sources for each? What fats should we be especially careful to avoid or minimize for good health?

Additional weekend challenge: Time for a break! Take some time to do something you really want to do!

Week 55!

Day 1. Justice - What is your definition of justice? What are the components of justice? What is needed to ensure justice is fair to all? Who administers justice? What are the elements of justice needed for there to be trust between a government and the people governed?

Day 2. Art and billboards - What is the difference between a work of art and a billboard? Are there artistic components that go into the design of a billboard? What are they? Can a billboard be a work of art? What is the purpose of a billboard? What criteria would you say need to be met for a billboard to be considered a work of art? 

Day 3. Oops! I forgot to send you a challenge today! Your turn to send me one at arsperspectiva@gmail.com

Day 4. Greens - Take a walk around your neighborhood or in a local park and count the number of things you see that are green. How many different greens can you find? What makes them different from one another? How might you mix them? Can you estimate the proportions of each color? If you have access to paint, can you test your estimates? How do they compare?

Day 5. Vaccines, liberation, and constraint - Read the current CDC guidelines and think about what ways the vaccines liberate our behavior, and what ways we are still constrained and why.

When You've Been Fully Vaccinated (Centers for Disease Control, 2 April 2021)

Weekend challenge: Spectacle - Review this visual essay about Mughal painting in India and consider how power and beauty are revealed through art.

What a Tiny Masterpiece Reveals about Power and Beauty (Jason Farago, New York Times, 2 April 2021)

Additional weekend challenge:  Longing - Have you experienced longing? How might you describe the feeling of longing? What have you longed for? Is longing imaginary?

Week 54!

Day 1. Infrastructure - What is infrastructure? Infrastructure comprises all of the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities need for a society to function (for example, buildings, roads, bridges, power supplies, mass transit). Why would President Biden be considering infrastructure for his next major legislative initiative? Why is this important? Why might Republicans be against it? How is infrastructure funded? Who pays for it? What do potholes have to do with infrastructure? Why would Pete Buttigieg, now our Secretary of Transportation, say "It's not about asphalt anymore"? Read these articles and see if you can address these large (and tiny) issues.

More than 45,000 Bridges Rated in Poor Condition, but Joe Biden's Infrastructure Plan May Hit Snag (USA Today, 22 March 2021)

The Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable, Clean Energy Future (Biden-Harris Campaign) 

Day 2. Creative adaptation - In what ways can you identify that you, your friends, and family adapted creatively to the extraordinary circumstances of the past year? How did that creative adaptation help you survive the challenges and stresses brought on by Covid-19, the pandemic, and our sheltering-in-place for more than a year?

Day 3. Social media platforms - What social media platforms do you use? What are your goals and objectives for each platform? [For example. some people use social media to connect with friends and family; others use it to connect with their favorite news sources; and others use it for business, shopping, or to promote their brand or increase sales]. Assess each of the social media platforms you use in terms of benefits and detractions. What aspects of each platform would you consider important to include in a review?

Day 4. Build a structure - Pick a series of vegetables or fruits, and cut them into units that you can use to build a structure. Ideally, the structure will be edible. Notice what happens, however, between vegetables that are raw and those that are cooked. What can you say in terms of their load-bearing capacity?

Day 5. Parking diagram - When you're next in a parking area, make a sketch that presents a diagram of how cars are parked. Are they parallel to the direction of traffic, at an angle, or perpendicular? Do that for several parking areas. Then sketch how you might maneuver your car into each type of space (parallel, perpendicular, angled). [Hint: You can just show two parallel lines for the body of the car, and four short or dashed lines for the wheels]. Show the direction you must move the wheels to get into each space.

Weekend challenge: Efficiency and optimization: Considering the parking areas you observed in yesterday's challenge, which arrangement seemed to be most efficient to get in and get out? Which arrangement seemed to optimize space, maximizing the number of cars that could be parked?

Additional weekend challenge: Dairy cattle - Can you look up and find out about dairy breeds in California? There are several historical ranches - what is their story? And what dairy products do we get from these breeds of cattle?

Week 53!

Day 1. Figure of speech - A figure of speech is a word or phrase used in a non-literal sense for rhetorical or vivid effect. What does 'rhetorical' mean? "Enough food to feed an army" is an expression that uses the rhetorical device of hyperbole, which is an exaggerated statement not meant to be taken literally. Can you think of other oft-used expressions that are hyperbolic?

Day 2. Secretary of the Interior - Deb Haaland was confirmed as Interior Secretary. She is the first Native American to serve in the Cabinet. What is the Department of the Interior? What areas of responsibility will she oversee? Given the historical relationship of the Department of Interior to Native American tribes, as a Native American, can you posit particular challenges she may face?

Day 3. Irish Ancestry - Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans claim at least one Irish ancestor? Happy St. Patrick's Day, by the way! The US Census Bureau compiled a batch of statistics on those with Irish ancestry in the US. Worth looking through. I'm sure you'll be surprised by which states have the largest population of those descended from Irish immigrants, and those states with the highest proportion (they are not the same!!! Can you review the data and determine which county in the US has the highest proportion of Irish descendants?

  Happy St. Patrick's Day to the One Out of Ten Americans Who Claim Irish Ancestry (US Census Bureau, 16 March 2021)

Day 4. AstraZeneca vaccine - I'm troubled by two reports that both appeared this week - the first regards the vaccine AstraZeneca and medical concerns about its being associated with blood clots, arguing for further investigation of its prospective risks, contradicted by public health officials who argue for the importance of continuing its distribution to counter the pandemic (several European countries have halted its distribution), and a second article announces Biden's offering of millions of doses of Astro-Zeneca to our neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Read both articles and consider the implied ethical concerns in proffering this vaccine across our borders.

"It's a Very Special Picture." Why Vaccine Safety Experts Put the Brakes on AstraZeneca's COVID-19 Vaccine (Science, 17 March 2021)

U.S. to Send Millions of Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada (New York Times, 17 March 2021) 

Day 5. Spring Equinox and No Ruz - Tonight we will experience the Spring Equinox (although I expect we'll all be asleep). What does this mean in terms of night and day, and the movement of the Sun between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer? Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, it is also the Persian New Year (No Ruz = new day), which is celebrated not only in Iran but in many parts of the world. Look up and find out where else it is celebrated.

Weekend challenge: Drawing - Prepare a drawing using only horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, in which you convey a sense of three-dimensional space.

Additional weekend challenge: Grid - Prepare a grid, and for each cell, cut out an image or a color field from a magazine; how might you endeavor to make meaning of what you/re concocting?

Week 52!

Day 1. Vaccinations - The CDC issued new guidelines. Read their guidance, and think about how it might affect your relationships with family and friends, and how it might contribute to certain cultural shifts in our population.

When You've Been Fully Vaccinated (CDC, 8 March 2021)

Day 2. Think of each of your grandparents as you watch this YouTube video about regional variations in American accents. Think about where each of them, and your parents, might fit in. What about your own patterns of speech?

Accent Expert Gives a Tour of U.S. Accents (Part One), WIRED

Day 3. TV - Interview family and friends and ask what TV shows they've been watching during the pandemic. Is it a different configuration than prior to the pandemic? If so, can you or they identify why? What do these shows offer during this long hiatus of "normalcy"?

Day 4. Today - Today is the one-year anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic. One year!!! Tonight President Biden gives a speech addressing our nation. Catch it if you can on your favorite news media; listen critically to distinguish what is behind us, where we are now, what the future holds for us. Share your thoughts on where we are now, what lies behind us, what lies ahead.

Day 5. All states, tribes, and territories - We've been hearing in the news recently quite often the phrase "all states, tribes, and territories," and President Biden mentioned them in his speech last evening. I'm sure you can name all 50 states - but can you name all the tribes and territories? Why is it important to include them, and not just mention the 50 states? What is the status of DC? What about Puerto Rico? Why do they want to become states? How might that affect the balance of power at the federal level? Finally, what is the meaning of the expression, "taxation without representation"? Again, to address today's challenge, you may need to undertake several searches. Center 

Weekend challenge: Teens and the Pandemic - The New York Times devoted an entire section to teens and the pandemic. Read the entire section, which has many photographs, collages, artworks, and statements by teens about how they experienced this past year. Then compose your own statement.

Teens on a Year That Changed Everything (New York Times, 7 March 2021)

Additional weekend challenge: Verbal nouns - I noticed that the print edition (Thursday, 11 March 2021) and the online edition (7 March) of the article I posted yesterday differ in a significant detail The print edition has a verbal noun at the top of each squib, a single word that encapsulates meaning. I will endeavor to collect these and send them along with today's challenge. Here they are : worrying, watching, speaking out, healing, distancing, scrolling, training, adjusting, learning, protesting, recording, performing, creating, witnessing, surviving, appreciating, processing, growing up, exploring, evolving, discovering, marching, yearning, stretchning, suffocating, struggling, seeing, caring, connecting, healing. Which of these verbal nouns characterize and capture your personal response to the pandemic? For me, I think it would be persisting and observing.

Week 51! [Note: technical difficulties this week - it will be reconstructed soon]

Day 1. Not a good way to start off the week! I forgot to develop a challenge for you. I need your inspiration! Can you suggest some topics for this week's challenges?

Day 2. What is pi? Please offer five correct answers to this challenge. You may look it up if you need to. Let me know if you need any hints to get to five.

Day 3. Time management - Prepare a spreadsheet with several rows (horizontal) and several columns (vertical). Either use your computer or do it on a piece of paper. In the left-hand column, list the hours of the day. In the next column, list the activities you engaged in during each hour. In the next column, indicate whether you spent too much time, not enough time, or just about the right amount of time for each activity. Be sure to label each column in the top row. In the next column name an emotion you experienced as you performed each activity. Then write a brief paragraph considering how you might improve or optimize how you spend your time for better benefit, higher productivity, or more enjoyment.

Day 4. Stringed instruments - How many stringed instruments can you name? Think beyond the boundaries of Europe and North America. Can you name a stringed instrument from Africa? Any from Asia? What is the origin of the violin? What is the etymology of 'lute'? How do stringed instruments make music? You may need to undertake several different searches to address today's challenge.

Day 5. Dr. Seuss - Do you remember reading books by Dr. Seuss as a child? What titles can you recall? What emotional responses do you remember? Did you think he was racist? He's in the media this week for several reasons - the calling out of racism among his books, which led to his presence in today's "culture wars" and he reached the top of Amazon's bestseller lists! Read these three articles and consider your own views on the matter of his implied or declarative ideas that might be considered racist. Where do you stand on these matters?

6 Dr. Seuss Books Won't Be Published for Racist Imagery (Associated Press, 2 March 2021)

Dr. Seuss Books' Sales Soar after 6 Titles Canceled for 'Racist' Imagery (Fox News, 5 March 2021)

'It's a Moral Decision': Dr. Seuss books are being 'recalled' not 'cancelled', expert says (The Guardian, 7 March 2021)

Weekend challenge: Prepare a healthy dish for brunch, and send me your suggestions for future challenges. Email arsperspectiva@gmail.com 

Week 50!

Day 1. Honoring and congratulating one grandchild who passed their driving test today, there is no further challenge. But if you'd like, you can send me one at arsperspectiva@gmail.com(link sends e-mail).

Day 2. A car - Today's challenge is to name every moving part of a car you can think of, and identify how it moves. [Hint: Start with the largest parts, like doors and hood, identifying how they move, and then move down progressively from there].

Day 3. Truths - How many different kinds of truth can you think of? How are they different from one another? Why is it important in the context of a court or senate hearing to take an oath? Is truth objective? Or subjective? Consider writing an essay or a poem about truth.

Day 4. Numbers - Think of all the ways that numbers impact your life. Make a list. Are there more that should? Or some that shouldn't? What changes can you make to "improve the numbers"?

Day 5. Perseverance - Perseverance is the name of the NASA rover that landed on Mars last week. Why do you think it is called Perseverance? Watch the video of its landing(link is external) at nasa.gov. Why is there a shadow visible? How long is a Mars-day? How long is an earth-day? Explore NASA's website and consider the ways in which Mars is different from Earth. And think about what ways they are similar.

Mars Perseverance Images (NASA)(link is external)

Mars Perseverance Landing (NASA)(link is external)

Weekend challenge: Axis - An axis is a visible or implied line along which or around which something moves or turns. Take a walk through your neighborhood and think about axes. See how many you can find.

Additional weekend challenge: Carpets - Rearranging the letters of the word 'carpets' how many words can you create? Take any two of them (or more) and write a poem.

Week 49!

Day 1. Washington's Farewell Address (1796) - Read the transcript of President George Washington's Farewell address (1796). Who was his audience (i.e. who did he write this for?) How old was he when he wrote this? How long had he served as President by that time? Who helped him write this address? The language is complicated, and the sentences are exceptionally long by today's standards. Read a few paragraphs aloud, and then see if you can write each paragraph you select in language that is more pertinent to our times. What are the key takaways, and why are they important?

Transcript of President George Washington's Farewell Address (1796)

Day 2. Leadership - First, enumerate all of the qualities you expect to see in a great leader. Then, identify who you might point to today as a great leader. Who in the past? Now, if you were me, you would probably first list a few great leaders, then identify the qualities that seem to make them great. That's not a bad approach to today's challenge.

Day 3. Eat the rainbow - Do you know the expression "Eat the Rainbow"? It is designed to ensure that you get all of vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis to remain healthy. See if you can name a vegetable for every color of the rainbow. What about a fruit for every color? How many colors do you eat every day? What changes can you make to improve your intake of vitamins and minerals from the food you eat?

Day 4. Luminescence - What does "luminescence" mean? Look it up. Then list everything you can think of that exhibits the quality of luminescence.

Day 5. Combatting Covid-19 - What can you do to help combat Covid-19? The options are expanding from stay safe and practise social distancing and good hygiene, to getting vaccinated, seeking treatment, participating in research trials, and giving plasma if you've had the virus. Read the guidelines provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, and see what you can do to learn more, protect yourself, and help others.

Combat Covid-19 (https://combatcovid.hhs.gov)

Weekend challenge: What's on your mind? Today's challenge is asking you to share with me what's on your mind? Send your thoughts to arsperspectiva@gmail.com

Additional weekend challenge: Art project - Consider the meaning of "progression." Let us start by saying "progression is a process of development or movement" from what to what? You fill in the blank. And develop a drawing, collage, dance, musical composition or other art project that expresses a progression.

These are challenges I endeavor to write daily for my grandchildren (14, 16, 17), so geared to middle/high school age. The questions may have relevance beyond, and I've shared them as well with neighbors, friends, and relatives, encouraging them to be distributed to those who may find them challenging, engaging, and beneficial during these perilous times. I know some of the questions have been adapted for a 4-year old in Chicago, for a fifth-grade class in Oakland CA, working online, and for a college class in New Haven, as well as for several children who are being home-schooled during this hiatus of normalcy. Many adults enjoy them as well! Some of the challenges will work to generate dinner table conversations, too! We are all in this together!

Although numbered by week/day, the challenges may be used in no particular order (except those for which there is a sequential question). Each one is designed to take 1-2 hours; collectively, they are intended to be interdisciplinary, and to stimulate creative and critical thinking. Some require Internet research, or use of iPhone/Android or iPad. Kids may work together or separately, and they may call an adult or other friend for clarification or to discuss search strategies. Hints might be offered as a second step.

For weeks 1-5, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/24/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 6-7, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/04/29/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 8-9, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/05/06/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 10-12, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/06/03/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 13-19, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/07/07/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 20-25, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/08/25/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 26-29, see https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/09/14/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 30-33, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/10/14/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 34-38, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/11/09/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 39-43, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2020/12/18/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day

For weeks 44-48, https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2021/01/25/learning-during-a-pandemic-challenge-a-day

For weeks 57-60https://www.leonardo.info/blog/2021/04/30/learning-during-a-pandemic-a-challenge-a-day


Thoughts?    Comments?    Questions?   Suggestions?   Email arsperspectiva@gmail.com

Berkeley, CA © Carol Bier, 2021

 Please circulate to whoever might benefit. Stay healthy!