Students just starting the school year will forever remember the COVID-19 pandemic as the time when everything was different. In an effort to capture this monumental moment in history, 7th grade history teacher Anthony Shaker asked his students to share their experience of living through this unique time in a project called The New Normal.
Students played the role of historian and documented the state of the world in response to the pandemic. In addition to reflecting on their personal experiences, students collected artifacts, took photos and conducted interviews with family and friends to demonstrate the vast impact of the pandemic on the community.
The students’ interpretation of the project led to a variety of reflections and visual presentations, which they created on Adobe Spark. This program allows students to be creative and design a Web page filled with their own customized text, photos and effects.
Several projects featured photos of masks, computer screens using Zoom and signs encouraging social distancing. Many students commented on the adjustment to taking daily temperature screenings, sitting in new classroom settings and cleaning their desks with sanitizing wipes every afternoon. While these new restrictions seemed daunting initially, students are adjusting to their “new normal.”
“One of my last feelings was that it felt unreal that I was back at school, with friends and teachers, but it didn’t feel wrong in any way,” said one student, “like we were meant to do school like this the whole time.”
The New Normal has helped students understand how history can shape individual and shared experiences as they explore their own and others’ perspectives. In a time when uncertainty and ambiguity are challenging the world, The New Normal encourages students to engage in healthy discussion and reflection about their surroundings.
Shaker said, “I thought it was important, as a way to introduce what history is and what historians do, to have the students create their own historical record of this moment. Sometimes important moments occur slowly or can come out of nowhere, but we know this moment is monumental. Secondly, I thought it would be a good exercise for the students to do this work as a way to process their emotions and feelings from being in school during a global pandemic. I know that it has been helpful for me as a way to get to know them as learners and as people, along with helping me process what it has been like to teach during this moment.”