I have worked at both a private and charter school that set on the course of project based learning (which I wholly embrace).
A core concept of pbl is grabbing student interest by some sort of entry event that can range from a video to and actual event.
Most of my entry events were pre-COVID, so I'm offering two: one that is fun and fairly simple but without social distancing and another which is more complex but completely in seats.
A mini-festival of the culture/time period
Celtic leather working
I did the mini-festival the first day of school for two years (but three times because of the semester schedule).
Each time I focused on the Anglo-Saxon Era and looked at the literature I'd be teaching and cultural components the students wouldn't know.
These included mead halls, clothing/jewelry, the scop, food, and Old English.
I set the classroom up in stations with activities and instructions and followed a simple timeline.
Greeting and small "feast"
Storytelling while eating
Regroup and discuss
For the feast I set the tables up in a long bench style and set out trenchers I purchased from Target with bread, cheese, and various meats.
I found a decent costume on Amazon, so I wore that and welcomed the students with a lyre and recitation of "Caedmon's Hymn" in Old English (it was a focus of a thesis in college, so it's stuck in my head!).
While they ate, our marketer (who is also an actor) presented a shortened version of Beowulf's fight with Grendel to intro the oral tradition.
Next, I gave instructions about how to approach the stations and dismissed the students to each.
I varied the stations each time, but here are several that were a hit:
Design your own Celtic/Old Norse style tattoo
Play Hnefatafl: an ancient game of chance
Decode Old English
Build a mead hall out of Legos (with a variety of pictures)
Supervised intro to Viking/Anglo-Saxon short sword
Supervised experimentation with a lyre, harp, and frame drum
With 10-15 minutes to spare, I brought the students back to the tables and discussed what they had seen, what they learned, and what they hoped to learn.
Celtic Leather Working
Warning: this project is potentially cost-prohibitive! I could only do it because we had half of the students each day, and I had the tools already because I teach leather working classes.
If leather isn't a possibility, doing this as an art project where you look at a variety of Celtic and Old Norse knots and use graph paper to create your own is also a great intro event and a good substitute for virtual students.
Our charter school started the 2020-21 school year hybrid with some virtual students. The first week of school was intentionally low-key and not content-focused. My classes were 8-12 students rather than in the 20s.
I used that time to introduce the seniors to leather working and Celtic designs via a sponsorship by Tandy Leather who provided me with enough 5-6 oz leather for all the seniors to use.
I cut out an archery armguard using a pattern from Tandy and punched holes ahead of time.
Students followed the basic leather tooling process:
Case (wet) the leather
Transfer a design to the leather using a stylus OR use stamps to create a design
Tool the leather (if part of their design)
Dye the leather
Let it dry
One class had a Zoom guest from Tandy who taught the students how to tool as part of the sponsorship.
What have you done as an entry event? Let me know in the comments!