School News

Crisis Response Alternatives

Photo: Max (right) working with students in the Primary School Leopard Lab.

The coronavirus pandemic has called upon people to not only donate supplies but also share their knowledge and skills in fighting the virus. Science teacher Max Firke is one of the many who has stepped up to answer such a call. As the virus swept across the country, and we went on spring break, Max joined Open Source Medical Supplies (OSMS) with over 70,000 people worldwide to help address the global shortage of materials in the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain.

OSMS has attracted people from all types of industries and businesses—from physicians and engineers to individual makers, educators, and field organizers. “I’m using what I know about science to help people,” said Max. As part of the documentation team, Max is researching how to use tools in a crisis to create non-traditional pathways to supply production. The resulting 80+ page medical supply guide captures stories of non-traditional efforts used in a crisis. Max and his colleagues hope to clarify for clinicians what individuals are trying to do and to document how to do it well to create more opportunities for crisis-response alternatives. “All kinds of people have a part to play in this because we all have different gifts,” said Max, who is particularly interested in small efforts that can become scaled up for mass production.

Growing shortages of medical supplies include face shields, bonnets, isolation gowns, booties, ventilator components, test kit supplies, and masks. As Max dove into the process of producing masks, he became the point person for making and donating masks, as well as a leader in organizing others to mass-produce masks. He has since worked with others on the OSMS team to publish two guides—a local response guide directing organizers of individual local chapters and a more specialized guide for people organizing mask-sewing groups and individuals sewing masks. OSMS has translated these guides into other languages based on the specific needs of each locale. Now there are 153 groups in 36 countries using the guides to make masks, and other supplies with more chapters are on the rise. "Everything is a team effort," Max said, "and it is only by working together that we can make a difference."
Lowell School is a private PK-8th grade school located in NW Washington, DC. At Lowell students gain the knowledge, skills, and social-emotional literacy to be the bold leaders and creative problem solvers our world needs.