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Back to School Story Ideas for Media (2020)

Posted by Communications and Marketing on August 18, 2020

Back to School 2020
As the summer months begin to wind down, parents, students and teachers will soon be heading back to the classroom. This school year will certainly look different than in years past as the global pandemic has caused educators to rethink how education will be delivered to students of all ages. Below is a list of topical story ideas for you to consider when planning your back to school coverage.  

Play and learn outside this year
This year more than ever, unstructured outdoor playtime will be an essential part of fostering good mental and physical health for young students. Dr. Michelle Stone, an assistant professor in Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance, can discuss the importance of ensuring children get outside as much as possible during the school day, and that they have quality outdoor play experiences during that time. She can also provide insight on how encouraging outdoor playtime and learning at school is not only a way to mitigate the risk of the spreading COVID-19, but how it is also a critical component to children’s development. 

Supporting students through pandemic schooling
Whether heading back to the classroom or being homeschooled, education will be different for many students this fall. Navigating the pandemic has had an impact on many students who for months were unable to attend school, see their friends and do activities that kept them happy and healthy. With academic and extra-curricular programming looking a lot different than what they have been used to, students may need a bit of support coping with these changes. Dr. Michael Ungar, professor in Dalhousie’s School of Social Work, can provide perspective on how parents and educators can help mitigate the impacts of the changes and challenges children will experience when they go back to school this September. 

Managing parent and teacher anxiety this fall
As students head back to class this fall, teachers and parents may find themselves facing a certain level of anxiety about keeping their students and children safe from the many impacts of COVID-19, and the virus itself. Clinical psychologist and COVID-19 researcher, Dr. Simon Sherry, can offer insight on supports and coping mechanisms they can use to help manage anxiety and stress during what may be a very difficult time.

Protecting personal privacy in a virtual world
With many classes and programs being offered virtually this coming school year, students, teachers and parents will be creating various online accounts and using a number of new programs as a means to learn and communicate while respecting social distancing measures. Dr. Nur Zincir-Heywood, professor in Dal’s Faculty of Computer Science, is able to offer some insightful advice on how people can protect their online accounts and personal information.   

Better Nights, Better Days for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders (BNBD-NDD)
As families begin to prepare their children for the new school year following summer vacation, which often includes long breaks from regular schedules and routines, ensuring children get a good night’s sleep is especially important. Up to 90% of Canadian children with neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) experience insomnia symptoms including trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or waking too early. Dr. Penny Corkum, professor in Dal’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscienceand Department of Psychiatry, and her colleagues at institutions across Canada, have developed an online sleep intervention program, BNBD-NDD,to support parents with children ages 4-12 years old with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Cerebral Palsy (CP), and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) that experience insomnia. The BNBD-NDDprogram can help parents help their children sleep better so that they can achieve the best academic outcomes.

Dr. Corkum is able to provide insight into this study and how behavioural treatments can help to ensure parents are equipped to support their children in getting a better night’s sleep. She can also speak to how the BNBD-NDDresearch team is currently looking for 150 families with children living with ADHD, ASD, CP and/or FASD from across Canada to participate in a study that will evaluate the effectiveness of the program.

Please note– Dr. Corkum will be available for interviews after August 27. 

Creative approaches to online teaching and learning
Dalhousie faculties have been working hard to ensure that despite moving courses online this fall, students continue to experience meaningful and inspiring academic programming. These are a couple of examples of how faculty have created programming that will provide students with immersive and engaging learning experiences.   

A unique transition to online performance
With many classes and programs moving to an online platform during the pandemic, Dalhousie’s Fountain School of Performing Arts has had to adapt quickly and creatively by reimagining ways to coordinate virtually with faculty and students to continue to produce and deliver high-quality productions and performances to audiences. 

The first play of the Fountain School’s season will be Jordan Tannahill's Concord Floral, a Canadian play from 2016. The production will be performed entirely online. Actors will rehearse and perform online from their own bedrooms in their homes across the country, adapting the creation, performance style and design to one that works on Zoom.  

Synopsis of the play: Concord Floral, inspired by Boccaccio’s The Decameron, is set in a million-square foot abandoned greenhouse and a hangout for neighbourhood kids. But something has happened there. Something that nobody can talk about. And when two friends stumble upon the terrible secret buried there, they set off a chain of events that can't be stopped. Concord Floralre-imagines Giovanni Boccaccio's medieval allegory The Decameronin a contemporary Toronto suburb, in which ten teens must flee a mysterious plague they have brought upon themselves.

Virtual field trips- An immersive and beautiful online learning experience 
Field trips are a significant component of the Bachelor of Science program, and since faculty and students cannot go to the field together, the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences has found a way to bring the field to their students. 

Using modern visualization techniques, they’ve built over 20 virtual field trips, complete with 3D models, video footage, and other high-resolution visualizations. Mike Young, senior instructor in Dalhousie’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, can speak to how this virtual learning tool, which includes areas from across the province, will ensure students are inspired by the beautiful landscapes of Nova Scotia, the majestic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the diversity of our east coast forests. He can also discuss how virtual field trips will enable an enriching and immersive learning experience for all students in the Earth Sciences program. 

You can get a glimpse of these beautiful field trips by clicking here.  

New course offerings
Dalhousie will be offering a number of new courses this year, some of which will help students and adult learners navigate their professional and personal lives throughout the pandemic and beyond. Below is a sample of the many new courses being offered this year. 

Psychological health in the workplace: Managing stress and emotions
Mental health is a workplace issue and for many Canadians, work is the number one identified contributor for stress. The impact of mental illness continues to grow and is a significant contributor to absenteeism and disability costs in our economy. In 2003, mental illness cost the Canadian economy approximately $51 Billion, of that $49.6 billion was attributed to depression and anxiety alone. Jillian Martin, instructor in Dalhousie’s College of Continuing Education and registered psychologist with the College of Alberta Psychologists, can discuss the impacts of Canadians mental health in the workplace, statistics, and legislation. Jillian can also provide perspective on how people can facilitate their internal capacity to develop tools to manage emotions and distress while fostering their ability to flourish in the workplace, all while promoting a culture that emphasizes psychological health and safety.

Neurodiversity and mental health in the workplace
Between neurodiversity and mental health activism, there have been recent strides to support the idea that people with different types of brains can bring new opportunities and new talents to the workforce, not just new challenges. People with a mental health history, as well as people who suffer from learning disabilities, are becoming a valued part of a diverse workforce. However, throughout history people with a mental health record have been marginalized, often suffering under arbitrary or cruel care, or left to be homeless or on the wrong side of the law. Jay Heisler, an instructor in Dal’s College of Continuing Education can offer insight on what people need to know about mental health from the patient's perspective as it pertains to the workplace and the psychiatric institution. He can also discuss barriers for people with learning disabilities and how to navigate them by examining the workplace, institution, politics and political discourse, interactions with law enforcement, and the media’s role in perpetuating stigma.

Staying centered in challenging times – Mindfulness for personal and professional well-being
Everyone experiences stress.  Nobody is immune, it's universal and has become more so since the global pandemic of 2020. On one hand, it's an amazing source of energy; but for most of us, prolonged stress can cause serious problems, both physical and psychological. Rita Wuebbeler, M.A., PCC, and instructor in Dal’s College of Continuing Education, can discuss ways that individuals who have experienced prolonged stress canreduce their stress levels to achieve a greater sense of well-being and focus. She can also provide insight as to how the practice of mindfulness is a well-documented method for helping calm our nervous system and helping us stay centered, especially in times of high stress, volatility, and uncertainty. 

The Politics of Pandemics 
This new and very topical course offered through Dalhousie’s Faculty of Arts, considers the relationship between plague and politics, both theoretically and in practice. It will consider some of the most pressing questions that contagion has posed and revealed about the political communities they infect and affect. Over the semester students will create multimedia presentations on a central political issue related to COVID-19, such as migration and mobility, the economy and class division, labour and labour rights, globalization and transnational supply chains, race and marginalized groups, democratic participation and voting, surveillance and big-data tracing. Larissa Atkison, faculty member in Dal’s Department of Political Science, can provide perspective on what contagions and the public crises they induce teach us about fear and risk in political life. She can also discuss how political communities can balance individual freedoms against collective well-being and what these choices reveal about that polity’s deeper ethical and political commitments, which pandemic responses strengthen communities and which contribute to their breakdowns. 

Please note– It’s up to the faculty members' discretion as to whether they’re able to accommodate interview requests.