STUDENTS | June 21, 2021
Blessing, a sophomore at the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville (CMA-B), says that the title of an article she read for one of her classes has stuck with her throughout the entire school year—Misinformation Kills People. She thinks about that phrase every time she sees a rumor spreading about COVID-19 on social media, and, over the past few weeks, she and her peers have been hard at work creating posters, presentations, and even songs to encourage others to make well-informed decisions about getting vaccinated against the virus.
Chicago Public Schools created guidance to help educators like Mr. Jose Uribe, a social studies teacher at CMA-B, implement a COVID-19 vaccine-related project as part of their curriculum. The goal of the project is to motivate students to turn inquiry into action by exploring information and various perspectives about the vaccine that they use to create resources that promote maintaining healthy communities.
“I feel like sometimes I underestimate the work my students can do as youth, and they always leave me surprised by their views and interpretations of things,” said Mr. Uribe. “I think we need to make sure that we’re giving students more opportunities to bring in what they already know into the classroom and then continue that learning by giving them a space to tackle the questions they have in a responsible way.”
One of the first decisions each student had to make was choosing their format. Cameron, also a sophomore, was originally going to make a TikTok. But, as he thought about it more, he realized that the information that he wanted to get across would only be on the screen for a few seconds, and he knew that people would not want to pause and play the video over and over again. So, he decided to make a poster instead. His classmate Kanijha also made a poster, making sure to strike the right balance between factual and captivating.
“I made sure that my poster was neat, because if it was crowded and messy, people wouldn’t know where to look first,” said Kanijha. “I also included pictures because I didn’t want everyone to have to read too much. I thought of it kind of like creating a picture book rather than a book that is all words.”
As they created their projects, all of the students in Mr. Uribe’s class discovered something new about the vaccine. Cameron learned about its high efficacy rates, and Blessing learned more about how vaccines produce antibodies to fight off viruses like COVID-19. Kevin, one of their peers, built upon research he had already done earlier this school year—simply out of curiosity—by delving deeper into how messenger RNA helps our bodies recognize the virus and know how to fight it off.
“During the pandemic, I had a lot of problems getting my friends and family to understand how the virus works and how the vaccine works,” said Kevin. “When people see a large crowd believing misinformation, they’re going to believe it too. I’ve been trying to get them to go to government websites because that’s where the facts are.”
Kevin believes that the pandemic has caused a shift from individuals only thinking about their personal rights to also considering the common good. He sees providing others with facts about the vaccine as a small step toward the pandemic ending sooner rather than later. And Blessing is already thinking about how she can use the skill set she’s developed through her project to be an effective researcher and advocate in the future.
“Finding reliable sources is one of the most important parts of becoming knowledgeable on a topic, and you have to consider the accuracy, currency, and authority of the source you are looking at,” said Blessing. “I think you should try to research on your own at first, but you can always ask someone else for help if you are struggling. A good place to start with a source is asking yourself: Is this giving me information or is this giving me opinion or bias?”
While research was the backbone of their work, students also had to get creative to convey what they learned in a captivating way. Check out their finished projects here.