Episode 196: Science Teachers Adapt Hands-On Lessons For Remote Learning; Dealing With COVID-19 In Vermont Prisons

For a hands-on subject like science, remote learning is particularly tricky. This week on NEXT, how science teachers and students are adapting and experimenting from home. And we go inside Vermont prisons to see the response to COVID-19. Plus, celebrating Ramadan in isolation.

With Schools Closed, Science Teachers And Students Look To The Outdoors

Sam (left) and Charlie Bradt use the iNaturalist app to identify plants and berries in the woods near their house. (Courtesy of Gabby Bradt)

Before school closures from the coronavirus pandemic, science classes did a lot of hands-on learning. Now, schools are trying to figure out how this translates to remote learning.

“We’re all getting tired of looking at a screen of faces, oftentimes with just the name, and it’s just like talking into the void,” said Dr. Susan Pike, who teaches high school science in Dover, New Hampshire.

New Hampshire Public Radio’s Sarah Gibson and Annie Ropeik report on the students and teachers who are discovering the possibilities — and limitations — of science at home.

How Are Vermont Prisons Handling COVID-19?

Burlington Probation and Parole employees Maria Godleski, left, and Glenn Boyde fill bottles with hand sanitizer for Vermont’s Department of Corrections. (Elodie Reed/Vermont Public Radio)

Prisoner rights advocates across New England fear the toll the coronavirus could take on inmates. A recent analysis from WBUR found that about 15,000 inmates and corrections officers have been infected with COVID-19 nationwide, and that’s probably an undercount. In Vermont prisons, the official tally of cases has held steady for a while: 38 inmates and 18 staff.

On March 5, an anonymous listener sent in this question to Vermont Public Radio‘s people-powered podcast Brave Little State:

“What is the state’s plan for Vermont prisons? What will happen if staff [need] to quarantine?”

VPR‘s Emily Corwin looked into the answer, which has changed rapidly over the past few weeks.

“We don’t leave the unit for absolutely anything, unless we go outside for rec,” said Terry Lizotte, who is incarcerated at Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, Vermont. “Our meals are brought to us, we eat in our cells, our meds are brought to us.”

Many New England states have already granted early release to some low-level prisoners. In Vermont, prison officials say they’ve reduced their prison population by nearly 300 people in response to the virus. But as Corwin writes, a VPR analysis “suggests these reductions reflect changes in who is going to prison, rather than who is getting out.” Plus, VPR reports there are about 350 inmates who are past their minimum sentence and could be released.

Pain And Profits: Mass. Sheriffs Hand Off Inmate Care To Private Health Companies

Janice Pendleton with images of her brother, Rodrick Pendleton, and his children. Pendleton was in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s custody when he died of a bowel obstruction in 2015. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

WBUR was already investigating poor medical care in Massachusetts jails before the pandemic hit. As part of their series “Dying on the Sheriff’s Watch,” reporters Christine Willmsen and Beth Healy looked into the injuries and deaths of inmates who were under the supervision of private healthcare companies. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry with little public oversight, and it dominates healthcare in county jails.

“When they paid attention, it was too late,” said Janice Pendleton, whose brother died in 2015 while in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s custody. The hospital was “right around the corner. I mean, I don’t understand.” 

Muslims Praying Away From Mosques This Ramadan

Imam Refai Arefin (left) holds a virtual prayer for the first night of Ramadan. Shaykh Syed Farghali recites verses from Chapter Two of the Quran. (Tyler Russell/Connecticut Public Radio/NENC)

It’s the holy month of Ramadan right now. Connecticut Public Radio’s Frankie Graziano connects with one Muslim family that is adjusting to offering the special evening prayer at home while mosques are closed to worshipers.

Samee Malik, 18, and his family usually attend the Berlin Mosque in Connecticut, which live-streamed the evening prayer on April 24. Malik said the virtual services have given them a new perspective on “how we can stay connected to our religion and keep our faith strong in these times.”

NEXT Wants to Hear From You:

On the show last week, we asked you to share your plans for the summer. With all the uncertainty, can you still go on that beach trip? Will that special event be canceled? We heard from listener Rachel Gilbert about her trip to Northern California. She wrote:

“We are just praying and hoping that things are normal enough that we can do our normal summer trip. Since I don’t get to see my parents very often … we are willing to take some risk to travel. But I’ll also be about 6 months pregnant at that point, so it’s a complicated decision.” 

We also got this voicemail.

“This is Kyle from West Glover, Vermont. And I actually had a tour planned. I’m a musician. I was gonna be in Europe, but instead I’m at home, and I’m going to use this time to record my next three albums. Something I’ve never done before, but I’ve got time on my hands. Alright. Bye.”

Three albums? NEXT called up Kyle Woolard to chat some more.

Now for this week: Trips to grocery stores and walks outside are a whole different ballgame these days. Do you find yourself grading people based on how much space they give — or whether they’re wearing a mask? We can relate. Tell us how you’re feeling about social distancing and everyone else’s behavior. If you had a message for your neighbors right now, what would it be? Leave a voicemail on our comment line: 860-275-7595. Or shoot us an email at next@ctpublic.org.

Also On This Week’s Show:

About NEXT

NEXT is produced at Connecticut Public Radio
Host/Producer: Morgan Springer
Executive Editor: Vanessa de la Torre

Senior Director: Catie Talarski
Contributors to this episode: Sarah Gibson, Annie Ropeik, Robbie Feinberg, Carrie Jung, Emily Corwin, Angela Evancie, Christine Willmsen, Beth Healy, Erica Heilman and Frankie Graziano.
Guests: Kyle Woolard
Music: Todd Merrell, “New England”  and “Pushback” by Goodnight Blue Moon and “The Wide Sargasso Sea” by Glorious Leader.

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