Thursday, December 03, 2009

A chance to do some real inquiry: Harakeke study.

An environmentally alert teacher aways keep an eye open for interesting things to introduce to his, or her, students. November/December is an ideal time for environmental or ecological studies. My visits to schools this term indicates such awareness is a lost art.

By term four students should be fully equip ed with all the skills and strategies in place to undertake inquiry topics on their own or with minimum assistance. The ability to do this would indicate that students are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge' as asked by the New Zealand Curriculum.

Driving around last month I couldn't help but note the untapped resources available for teachers to involve their class in exploring.

This is a great time to study harakeke or flax, one of New Zealand iconic plants. Students could visit to admire the shapes,patterns and movements and to observe the recent flower stalks and developing seed pods. Digital photos could record various aspects to later draw or write thought poems about. From such activities questions will arise for students to research. If you can find some last years pods count how many seed on an average flax bush - this will involve estimation.

Other interesting areas to explore are roadsides, lawns or wilderness grassy areas, to find out what plants thrive in such special conditions. There is no need to worry about naming plants - this will evolve with time.In the first instance take digital photos of plants and record how common they are on a scale the class can develop themselves. Individual plants an be studied, drawn , described and named where possible ( there will be experts in the community you could call on). If there are daisies on the lawn throw some PE rings and count out how many there are - or run a line across the lawn and count the daisies ( or any other plant) touched.This is a simple line transect - real maths in action.

Most schools have interesting plants ( annuals or shrubs) flowering at this time of the year.Take digital photos of some, do observational drawing of them, study them and display what has been found out. Vegetables and fruits make interesting studies - study them and research where they originated.

What birds inhabit the school grounds - once again take photos and descriptions and research back in class.

Some schools might be near the seashore with the possibilities of ecological studies of rocky shore or sand dunes but at this time of year time might not be available for such interesting studies. Same with the bush. However many schools have native plant gardens, what plants have been used. Take digital photos, draw and research.

Leaving natural science studies students could just develop artistic and aesthetic awareness. The digital camera is ideal. Send students out in small group to photograph, say six, interesting patterns, tree trunks, maths patterns, very small things, strange small plants..anything. Print and display. Add thought poems.

Classrooms should be full of such things.It is time for blue penguins, disaster studies, and save the rain forest studies to move over and let the real world in.


Jody Hayes said...

This is SO true - leave the 'global warming' type topics to others ... explore our real and tactile world in our local community. Thank you once again Bruce for your useful and motivating real world ideas for the learners in my classroom.

Ms F said...

Thanks Bruce, couldn't agree more. As a Year 0/1 teacher we need to get the kids out in the environment. We did a unit called In the Garden at the beginning of this year which was the most successful unit I have done in the past 2 years. I am so excited we will be going down a similar track next year!

Bruce Hammonds said...

Teachers need to get back to exploring the immediate small scale environment around their schools with their children. They need to educate their students senses to develop their awareness and language (and art/maths/ drama/music....)) in the process. Such explorations will lead to students asking and answering their own questions.

We need them to see the world through their eyes not our curriculums.We need to help them express their ideas in as many ways possible.

We need more language experience, more environmental explorations, more fun science and maths challenges. We need more personal responses to their experiences as this is the basis of real learning and reading and wrtiting.

A lot has been lost over the past decades. It has all got too complicated, too serious, and somewhere in all this we lost the plot.

What do you think?

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