From the National Writing Project:
Writing, like any other art, teaches the entire range of “tools for thinking” that are required to be creative in any discipline (Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein 1999). To be a lucid writer, one must observe acutely; abstract out the key information; recognize and create patterns; use analogies and metaphors to model in words some reality that takes place in another dimension; translate sensations, feelings, and hunches into clearly communicable forms; and combine all this sensual information into words that create not only understanding but also delight, remorse, anger, desire, or any other human emotion that will drive understanding into action.
Do you have some students who would rather write than solve problems or build models? They may be the same ones who think that science isn’t for them. But they might find that writing about science can be really fun. They can weave scientific ideas into a short story, a romance, a video game scenario, or a TV sit-com plot. So maybe your next assignment can be to ask your students to write creatively about the pandemic — feel free to send us the results.
I decided to describe the coronavirus pandemic as a baseball game:
A Pandemic in Nine Innings
Once upon a time there was a baseball team that had not lost a game in over one hundred years. Its name was Team Winsalot. Once in a while an opposing team might score a run or two, but Team Winsalot was always able to gut out enough runs by the end of the game to shut the opponents down.
Team Winsalot had gotten so used to winning that it took winning for granted. The team was so confident, it went so far as to eliminate positions! The first position eliminated was the second baseman. So few opponents ever even got to first base that it seemed unnecessary to have someone standing at second base for the whole game when there was never any threat of a steal. The next position to go was center field. Big hits were so rare, after all. So rare, indeed, that the two remaining outfielders even stopped wearing caps and gloves. And they often just hung out in center field chatting.
You’d think that fans would stop following a game with so little suspense, but many people became devoted to this new approach, assuring themselves that the team’s winning streak was due not to the weakness of its opponents but to its great attitude, that the rejection of precautions like gloves, center fielders, and second basemen was evidence of its pride and belief in itself.
Things began to change in March 2020. A new opponent showed up and in the very first inning managed to get several hits. Runners who made it to first base strolled to second. Outfield hits were rarely caught by the gloveless pair of outfielders clumped together in center field. By the end of the first inning, the new opponent had 186,025 hits and 3,612 runs. This was clearly no ordinary opponent.
When the second inning began, Team Winsalot had made some changes. The manager found a second baseman somewhere, added back the center fielder, and suggested that the outfielders spread out. The team still claimed, however, that gloves were unnecessary —Team Winsalot had its pride after all, and its owners were already grumbling about fielding two additional players. The second inning went a lot better. Admittedly, the opponent got another 875,862 hits and 58,824 runs, but the rate of hits and runs was definitely trending down. You might even say that Team Winsalot was flattening the curve.