BACKGROUND: It's late spring 2003. You work as the
assistant director of a small neighborhood community center in Toronto,
the city in North America with the highest incidence of SARS (Severe
Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Your neighborhood is a mix of professionals
and blue collar; it includes a number of health care professionals and
visible population of Asian immigrants, including those from China,
Malaysia, and India. No one in your neighborhood has been diagnosed
with SARS, but everyone is talking about it. Your center has devoted
a section of its bulletin board to a community discussion of SARS. The
comments posted on the board have revealed a range of feelings in the
"PLEASE TAKE TWO MASKS HOME"
Responding to the SARS Epidemic
Your center director has asked you to plan a brochure with information on
SARS, its history, and steps that can be taken to halt its spread. You decide
to start this process by gathering information and then
outlining the key elements that should be included in the
brochure, thinking about issues of clarity, perspective and audience.
Activity. (55 Minutes Total)
Step 1. Researching the Situation. (30 min) Choose a partner. After
reviewing these instructions, work with your partner to examine
some of the sites listed on the attached sheet to gather information about
SARS in Canada and the world, steps for protecting yourself
as an individual, and related public policy issues. Use the attached note-taking
form--or create your own.
Step 2. Sorting, evaluating, and analyzing information. (10 min)
Stop gathering and start analyzing. With your partner,
reflect on the data you gathered. What sites were most helpful to you? What
information did you find on different sites? How would you describe their
biases? How would you rate their reliability?
Step 3. Outlining key points of a brochure. (10 min) Sketch the
key points of your brochure or pamphlet. Consider these questions: What
information is most important? How should that information be presented
(order, emphasis, illustration, layout)? How would you handle controversial
issues around immigration and quarantine? How would issues of audience and
perspective shape your decisions? What kind of look and feel would you want
for the brochure? Why would you adopt this approach?
Step 4. Questions for further inquiry. (5 min) What else would
you want or need to know to create your flyer? Brainstorm a list of questions
and possible sources for additional information.
- Fear of catching the disease;
- Desire for more information about the disease;
- Concern about what the Government is doing -or not doing - to stop
- Fear of immigrants and travelers who might spread the disease, particularly
- Worries about the impact of the disease-and the impact of publicity
about the disease-on Toronto's tourist industry, which is very important
to the local economy.
Small Group Discussion (40 minutes):
Gather with others who did this activity. Take turns briefly sharing
your outlines for a one-page brochure and your list of questions for further
inquiry. Then reflect on and discuss this activity with your small group,
using the following sequence of questions as prompts. At the end of this
time, prepare one member of the group to share key points of your discussion
with the larger group.
What did you learn from this activity? What could students learn from
a classroom version of it (including the sharing and exchange of presentations)?
What other kinds of writing or presentation outcomes could this activity
What are the strengths and weaknesses of this activity? Is it a good
vehicle for developing student skills in inquiry, critical thinking, and
writing? How could it be improved?
How would you describe the pedagogy that informs this activity? What
skills and modes of thinking does this activity support? Do the electronic
materials being engaged suit the assignment's pedagogy and methodological
goals? What can we learn from this activity about the kinds of inquiry
assignments that work best when using new media resources?
How does the inquiry approach used in this activity compare with inquiry
approaches you have used in your classes? What is similar? Different?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of inquiry learning, in your
experience? Where does it fit in the repertoire of teaching in your field?
Developed by Bret Eynon