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The Spacesuit Chronicles: The Library Brings Ebola Home

By: Laurie Katusin Swallen

Collaboration with teachers is obviously something librarians aspire to do more of, and it has been one of my goals.  In my building, it has been difficult to collaborate with the science department, and I decided to see if I could find some way to show them what we could do as a team.  When I heard that the biology teacher, Mrs. Rowbotham, was teaching The Hot

 Zone in her anatomy class, I was extremely excited and asked if there was a way we could collaborate on the unit.  Having never taught a novel, she was hesitant to add it to her curriculum, so I offered my support, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our team teaching.

Anatomy learned about viruses, so the topic of the novel was relevant and of interest to the students.  We sat down to discuss what her learning goals were and talked about how I might support those goals.  We also did not want to teach the book as an English class might, so we decided to allow for more autonomy for the students in how and when they read the novel.

I spent several weeks researching both the novel and Ebola.  I found a plethora of resources and shared all of my findings with Mrs. Rowbotham, our biology teacher.  Her enthusiasm about our collaboration only had me more excited when I was able to have a guest speaker from the health department come to share with our class.  He brought “space suits” and discussed his training.  The students asked many questions and a few even had the chance to try out the equipment.

We began our unit with an introduction to the author and photos of some of the real-life characters in the book.  I presented the author’s bio, while Mrs. Rowbotham shared her photos of the Ebola virus.

We assigned each section of the book to have specific due dates and only had a few discussion days, where students could refer back to questions I had put together based on research on the novel, or they could just discuss what they enjoyed about the section or questions they might have about why things happened the way they did.  This led to some very spirited discussions about viruses, the transmission of viruses, and current events.

Within our unit, we assigned a comparison/contrast paper of the symptoms of Ebola and another virus of their choosing.  Students used our INFOhio/Gale databases to research, and many even used books that I had pulled on many different viruses.   Students shared what they learned during class, and it even lead to discussions about Ecoli and swimming pools.

Overall, our collaboration has been a wonderful experience for me.  I had the opportunity to learn things about viruses that I would not have known if I had not immersed myself both in the novel and in the research.  In class, the discussions were full of information, and I enjoyed seeing the students in a different environment.  Mrs. Rowbotham and I are already planning to collaborate again—hopefully, by trying out an escape room. I look forward to many

more days of learning, sharing, and researching!