If social distancing for coronavirus is a challenge, it might be helpful to know that six feet is the length of the average adult llama. So all you need to do is keep enough room for a llama between you and other people when you’re out and about.
There’s another connection between llamas and coronavirus: it turns out that llamas have antibodies that may help scientists develop a vaccine or a cure.
Finally, we know that COVID-19 has added a lot of drama to our lives. That’s probably true for you and your kids as well. Scroll down to look at some ways to cope with coronavirus drama — but let’s call it llama drama. We think that’s more fun.
Learn about llamas
Llamas have an important job: growing wool.
They are sheared once the weather warms up in the spring, and their wool is used to make yarn. Here is a llama being sheared in Oklahoma. (Thanks to Staci Forshee of Red Hill Farm.)
Here is some llama yarn.
Here is a sweater knitted from llama wool.
Knitting is an ancient craft that began in ancient Arabia. Students in Iceland still learn to knit in school, and maybe your students can do the same.
Llamas also work as pack animals, especially in the Andes mountains.
- Learn basic facts about llamas.
- National Geographic on llamas
- Llama terminology
- A simple llama art project
- Fun downloads from the author of the Llama Llama books
- Llama Llama board books
Learn about viruses
Llamas are mammals, as human beings are. Viruses are very different from mammals. Viruses are parasites. They can’t live on their own. They have to take up residence (infect) a cell from a living creature and use that creature to move and reproduce.
- A traditional classroom lesson on viruses
- A more thorough classroom study for grades 3-5
- A downloadable set of worksheets
- Lessons from the CDC
Examples of viruses:
- Fancy tulips used to get their beautiful patterns from viruses. The Tulip breaking virus caused beautiful flowers — and weak plants. Modern patterned tulips have been bred for patterns, so they can be healthy.
- Influenza, or flu, is a common virus that makes people sick every year, and can kill people. Flu vaccines help people avoid getting the flu. Flu can be a very serious disease. In 1918, just after the First World War, a pandemic of Spanish Flu broke out. It killed 40 million people around the world — far more than the war had killed. Read about the history of the flu.
- Coronavirus. At this writing, coronavirus has become endemic after the pandemic. It’s still turning up in schools. Read on for some lessons about COVID-19.
Llamas, dramas, and the coronavirus
Preschool and Elementary
Wash your hands! During the pandemic, an upsurge in hygiene awareness led to a downturn in flu cases. Kids still need to know how to wash their hands.
Baby Llama from Llama Llama Red Pajama helps with a hand washing song. This is an example of how a little llama drama can make things more fun.
Use CTP’s llama cutouts for Llama Drama notices.
When your students or your kids at home have a drama, brainstorm with them to discover some alternative responses. Use “If…then…” statements to come up with a plan for how to cope with dramas. Write the plan on a llama cutout and let your child save it for future reference. Or put it up on the wall so everyone can benefit from it.
We like this method of defusing dramas when possible. In stressful times, it’s natural to feel a little dramatic, but drama can also add to the stress. Instead of letting drama escalate, think about useful responses. These can help us cut our kids (and ourselves) a little slack — were don’t have to be dramatic about how dramatic we’re being. Just acknowledge the drama, plan for the next time, and move on.
Harvard Medical School reports that there are ways to accomplish this without the llamas. Click through the links to get some background information on llama antibodies and how they might help create vaccines.
Wired Magazine has an article on new developments in the research on llamas and coronavirus. Read the article together once you’ve read the background information. This could spark a good discussion on how scientists’ understanding of information can change as new information is discovered.
In his book Factualness, Hans Rosling points out that news publishers have to publish dramatic, exciting news to get people to read or watch their news. Use the llama antibodies (or other COVID-19 stories you’ve found interesting) with older students to identify ways that news stories can be made more dramatic.
Together, find 8 – 10 news articles about the story you’re looking into. Decide which ones seem more dramatic. Identify the Who/ What/ Where/ Why and How of each story and identify the facts and opinions. Then find the parts of the story that add drama.
Some things you might notice:
- Exciting headlines– which llama antibody stories sound more exciting based on their headlines?
- Stories that seem more exciting at the beginning of the story, before all the facts are included
- Stories that are very unusual. For example, what is more exciting — staying home to flatten the curve, or talking drones warning people to return to their homes?
- Stories including celebrities. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson say they felt very tired when they had COVID-19. Would that be exciting if it were news about Mr. and Mrs. Smith from Tuscaloosa? Would it make headlines?
Discuss whether some news ends up being more popular or more effective because it’s more dramatic. Can things that aren’t true spread because they’re dramatic and exciting?