Two lockdown lesson plans on global issues

My week is divided in two at the moment. From Monday to Wednesday I’m the attic, writing my new book or working on various freelance jobs. Downstairs, my wife homeschools the kids. Then we swap over. My wife picks up her BBC radio job from Thursday to Saturday and I do the childcare. They’re on a break in the garden right now.

This morning Eden has written a review of the first Harry Potter book, and a letter to her future self about what it’s like to live through a global pandemic. Zach is copying out the periodic table from a graphic in Professor Brian Cox’s book The Wonders of the Universe.

None of these are tasks were set by the school, but it’s Friday. And we’re trying to strike a balance between their own interests and the curriculum.

One thing we’ve been doing is swapping Zoom lessons with friends who have skills to share. We’ve had things like music or drama, and in return I’ve done sessions on photography, architecture, or global challenges. A couple of those are relevant to the themes of this blog, and it occurred to me that I ought to write them up and share them. So here are two. They were both done with six children over Zoom, but they could be adapted in various ways.

First, I did a lesson on reinventing the toilet. It’s discussion based and looks at the problems with the traditional flushing toilets we all know, and some of the imaginative solutions. Kids get to have a go at designing a different kind of toilet – when I did it we had a suggestion for a tiny underground train that runs your poo out to the sea and tips it in, and another suggested a catapult that fires waste into space. I should email those ideas to Bill Gates.

Secondly, I did a lesson on global wealth and poverty, using ideas from the book Factfulness and the online resource Dollar Street. This explores the four levels of income and how many of the world’s population live at each one, all done through pictures of real people’s homes, bedrooms and kitchens. It’s quite intuitive and a real reminder of how much we have in the global North, though I may have accidentally traumatised our friend’s son with just how stark extreme poverty can be.

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