It’s Their Education. Not Mine.

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 Zippo photo credit: liber via photopin cc

As the months have ticked by and my students have slowly grown into the big shoes that Grade 4 holds I have noticed something interesting happening in my classroom. My students absolutely love teaching each other. Now I know this is nothing new but we are currently experiencing a major shift in my room.

It all started earlier this year when one of my students came to me asking when we would be studying the Canadian government. You see, he had heard via the grapevine that it was something that Grade four’s always learned and he couldn’t wait to get started. I let him know that we would be exploring the government in January – February and thought that’s where the matter would end. Well, I was wrong. Almost on a weekly basis after that I was asked when we would be starting and why we couldn’t start sooner. Clearly I had a Canadian government aficionado on my hands.

One day as I was peppered with more questions about what we would be studying I had an idea: would he want to kick off our unit with a presentation? I posed the suggestion to him and he jumped on board but before he started he had two questions for me: 1) What should he do his presentation on? 2) What were we ‘supposed’ to  cover? I pulled out my curriculum document and said: “You have free rein on what you want to present on and here are the topics we are ‘supposed’ to cover. He asked if he could add in extra topics: the privy council, how supreme court judges are nominated and the history of the various positions within parliament. Sure, why not? If it interested him I said and it is within the big topic he could go for it! With a route to follow and a spark of inspiration off he went ready to do his research!

The weeks ticked by and I watched him diligently research and tinker with his presentation. Every now and then I was asked if I could look over his work and perhaps give him another look at the curriculum document. As things starting winding down to winter break I let him know it would be time to present in January once we got back from our break. I could see the excitement and nervousness building. I too was excited to see how this would all pan out.

When the day arrived and as he walked up to the front of the room we both took a deep breath. As he worked through is presentation, I was blown away. The depth and level of research was incredible. Best of all, he spoke at the level of his peers and in terms they would understand. (He even had a full bibliography. Something I had worked hard on with them earlier this year. Yay!) As he wrapped up his peers cheered and clapped. They asked insightful and thoughtful questions. This was the best kick off I could have asked for.

Gov

Fast forward a few weeks and another member of my class approached me. He was wondering when we would be studying rocks and minerals and, if he could do the same as his classmate and kick off our unit for us. Cue a repeat of the same process: careful preparation, curriculum consultation and another presentation that blew me us of the water.

Rocks

These two presentations have sparked something in my students. They now know that if they would like to teach each other something they are most welcome to. Since then we have had more presentations on rocks and minerals, birthstones,  star formation, sea life and one of the most in-depth video game analysis I’ve seen. And, just because they can and know how, a group of boys are building a website all about rocks and minerals.

Sea life

Now as I sit thinking about the events of the first few months I have begun to realize something. Yes, I have incredible students. And yes they love learning. But like every single student in our classrooms it is their education and not ours. This is their schooling experience and the learning journey of their lives. They deserve to explore their curiosity and follow their interests. With the right tools, freedoms, guidance and empowerment they are the most incredible resource in our room. They can teach each other anything and with me as their guide, I can help make it happen.

 

Today We Went On A Treasure Hunt.

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 Could it be the droid I am looking for? photo credit: Nukamari via photopin cc

This morning as I was putting the schedule on the board, I stopped next to the science label and simply wrote: C,H & O activity. When students started coming in and seeing what the roadmap for today said, they all asked “What is C,H & O activity”. It stumped them. It perplexed them. It thrilled them. They couldn’t wait until 2:40pm when it was finally time to explain what we were doing. I was bombarded with questions all day but simply replied “You’ll see when we get there. It’s going to be fun!”.

One student did figure it out 5 minutes before science, and was given the job of proudly announcing to the class that it was called the: “Carnivore, Herbivore and Omnivore Activity”. Questioning eyes landed on me as I finished my sentence. What was this activity? How would it be fun?

The idea was simple. We have been studying habitats for a while and have just started our exploration of food chains this week. It was time to explore what the different types of consumers were.The students were given a table with three columns and were challenged to search through the science literature for multiple examples of all three types of consumers. (I am blessed that the school librarian put together an amazing collection of together for us for this unit).  Once they had completed their lists, they could pick their favourite three and sketch them in their science thinking books.

Our pre-discussion resulted in amazing questions: Is a penguin an omnivore or is it carnivore? Are bees herbivores? What about vampire bats??. Armed with the books, a reminder to have a critical eye when reviewing information and eagerness that only a treasure hunt could inspire the students were off! The buzz in the room was amazing! Discussions and gasps of delight as they figured out what different animals eat filled the room. “DId you know that a frog is carnivore?”, “Do you know what the three types of mammals who lay eggs are?” When students were stumped they could use the laptops to check their information.

Oh what fun it was! There were groans as I asked them to clean up. What fun scientific treasure hunts are! Nobody can take away the treasure of knowledge.

Poetry: Words that Give Food for Thought

On my Monday task list was to finally complete the online  sustainability education concepts and methods course I am registered in, a mammoth task but one well worth the effort! While making my way through one of the units there was a whole section on connecting science with the arts. The unit is quite fascinating as a whole and something that has a natural appeal to myself as an early years educator. I thought I would just share one of the videos from the course as I think it speaks volumes about the potential impact and connection that can exist between the arts and sciences.

Below is a spoken word poem entitled: Hieroglypic Staircase By Drew Dellinger.

Teaching for Sustainability

As I have started my practicum block I have already started to miss teaching science. Science is like a comfy go to subject for me. I am comfortable with the concepts covered and the questions raised in scientific  explorations. I see science and scientific questions everywhere! (Thank goodness for the internet for helping answer all my questions!)

I found that when I started thinking of what I wanted to teach in my social studies unit for practicum block, I instantly thought about teaching around topics of sustainability. It is something that I truly do feel children should be taught about and become involved in at an early age. Kids love nothing more than having an impact that matters and doing their part.  And  really what is better than helping save the world one small step at a a time?

Along with a classmate of mine I recently signed up for a course entitled : Sustainability Education Concepts and Teaching Methods. It is a free (!) 15 hour course offered by the Green Education Foundation Institute. We are taking part in their pilot project run of the course. Each unit requires you to a bit of reading, watch a few videos and then reflect and answer questions. I have been terribly busy, but so far so good! If you are interested in teaching for sustainability you should definitely consider taking the course. According to their FAQ the closing date for registrations is 15 December 2011. If you do not have time check out their resource site for some great resources!

Website: http://www.gefinstitute.org

Resource Site: http://www.greeneducationfoundation.org/index.php?option=com_sobi2&Itemid=567

Green Leaf of a Bio Plant in Nature

By epSos.de