May 29, 2020

Processing the pandemic: two opportunities

Ben Mardell

Stress. Uncertainty. Fear. Grief. Just some of the emotions many of us are feeling as we confront COVID-19. In light of these emotions, we want to alert you to two endeavors put together by friends of the Pedagogy of Play project, each offering a way to process the current state of the world.  


A collaboration between Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin and the Interacting Minds Centre (IMC) at Aarhus University in Denmark, #WeUsedTo is an invitation to share reflections on COVID-19 pandemic experiences. It is a space to explore and to share.

Visiting the site, you will be prompted to use an adaptation of a thinking routine from Project Zero called “I used to think…Now I think.” What did you think/value/feel/worry about before the pandemic? What you do you think/value/feel/worry about now?

You can also see responses from people from around the world -- some very sad and some optimistic. For example, Ki Taek from South Korea shared:

I used to think making plans was a good way to get where I wanted to go.

Now I think that maybe life cannot be planned.

Akanksha in India shared:

We used to imagine blue skies in Delhi.

Now we know how magnificent they look.

Daniella wrote:

I used to hold back my tears.

Now I cry.

The #WeUsedTo initiative is also a research project. A team is analyzing statements, and will share trends and important ideas they find. Why? As the group eloquently explains:

[I]t is not just the virus that spreads. Emotions, uncertainties, facts, beliefs and experiences propagate fast and in many directions. Keeping bodies at a safe distance has proven to be critical for making it difficult for the virus to get from one person to another. Sharing experiences and reflections may be important for us to figure out how to live together in world, where COVID-19 is likely to be around for a while

Hope, where are you?

A children’s book written by educators Armand Doucet and Elisa Guerra and illustrated by Ana Ragu, Hope, Where Are You? is the story of six children from around the world who are facing school closures and other disruptions to their lives because of the pandemic. Each child experiences frustration and challenge, and finds their hope which they share with others.

There is Nikau from Oceana whose family has had to move from the city to the countryside. Missing friends and feeling isolated, Nikau is encouraged by his older brother to build their old neighborhood out of cardboard. They populate the neighborhood with icons of the virus on tin cans, and play a very fun and empowering game where they knock the cans over with their rugby ball. There is Mulu from Africa who is missing school, in part because of her dream of becoming a teacher. At her father’s suggestion, Mulu begins teaching her entire family math. And there is Kate from North America who is bored at home and is driving her older brothers and parents crazy by bouncing off the walls. She winds up using yoga to center herself, teaching it to her whole family (here is International School of Billund P.E. teacher Kathrin Schaller reading the chapter on Kate to some of her students).  

Colleagues at the LEGO Foundation have created active, playful activities associated with each of the children: how to create an obstacle course for Nikau; playful math activities about numbers, shapes, and patterns for Mulu; and yoga poises for Kate.

Volunteer educators have translated the text, which is currently available in 23 languages. You can download the book and activities for free.

Recognizing that children and families don’t have equal resources to face the challenges of the pandemic, there is an associated fundraiser with the goal of raising 1 million US dollars for the UNICEF COVID-19 Response.

At a time when children around the world are wondering and worrying about what the future holds, Hope, Where Are You? provides an entry point for discussions about what children around the world are experiencing.