Instructional Planning and Delivery:
A critical question…something that engages students to wonder about, question, express an opinion, debate, inquire, and provoke curiosity. Questions should connect to curriculum expectations and be presented in a way that is culturally responsive to students’ understanding. For instance…
- How do humans affect all living things?
- How does classification deepen my understanding of the world around me?
- How do positions of power affect biodiversity, globally and locally?
- How do identities (age, gender, culture, location) affect decisions that impact the environment?
- Are all living things created equal?
A provocation (i.e., an article, statement, photograph, movie, natural elements brought indoors, a neighbourhood walk, a book, a story, a quote, etc.) that engages students and ignites conversation.
- “If we pollute the air, water, and soil that keep us alive and well, and destroy the biodiversity that allows natural systems to function, no amount of money will save us.” David Suzuki
- Agree or disagree: All living things (people, plants, animals) have a right to live.
Teacher Tip: “Last year, at the onset of this learning cycle, I took my class for a neighborhood walk. It initiated some interesting conversation that not only guided the inquiry process, but provided a framework for students’ understanding of their impact on the local community. We looked deeper into the patterns of the diminishing natural environment, why this continues to happen, and how these patterns affect biodiversity (specifically food chains, food webs, etc.). A few blocks from the school students noticed a large area, formally a grassy field with trees, etc., recently cleared for a major residential community. It ignited further inquiry into ethical issues of biodiversity….from disrupting natural habitats to providing homes to new families. The possibilities for new learning were endless…”
Following the walk…
- Discussion based on observations: Who decides on residential developments in our city/neighbourhoods? What factors are considered? Who is consulted? Who is not consulted? Who should be consulted? Do you agree/disagree with the plans? How does this affect the biodiversity in the local community? Where is the student voice/children’s voice in land use?
- Students were very curious about their own residences and how it was determined that their homes be built in a particular location. Curiosity lead students into research about urban planning (i.e., asking family members, school board plans 50 years ago when our school was first built, what existed on school property prior to the school, how have all these decisions impacted way of life, biodiversity, etc.)
- Research uncovered expansion of the city due to population growth in the 1960s
- Another neighbourhood walk took place….students began to notice our school placed in the centre of an industrial area, surrounded by hydro lines, with very little greenery…..they wondered why?
- Questions/research continued into the natural habitats that were affected once construction took place…how did new owners (i.e., school boards, families) take ownership of the land?
- How does the notion of ‘land ownership’ connect with First Nations?
- What happened to the animal habitats that once resided in the area? How does this connect with endangered and/or extinction of species?
- The process was documented on a bulletin board inside the classroom in addition to a continued online discussion via our class blog through Edmodo, an educational tool to connect with students and/or parents-
- Assessment was ongoing, through ‘knowledge building’, questioning, reflections, exit cards, etc. (‘look-fors’ include students ‘extending their understanding’ by asking critical questions and offering suggestions to take action)
- Actions following research and discussion included emails/letters written to the housing development company asking questions about environmental responsibilities; speaking to other students in the school; increasing awareness of how decisions are made by governments, building companies, businesses, banks, school boards, etc.; impact on daily life of all living things in an existing neighbourhood; and further research into plants and animals that are either endangered and/or extinct
- The ‘aha’ moment occurs when students begin to say, ‘I will never see my neighbourhood in the same way again.’
- Consider: What would your students wonder about after being presented with a critical question prior to a neighbourhood walk? What actions would they be inspired to take once they learn more about where they live? What do they agree with, disagree with, and why?
Learning Goals should be made visible at the onset of the inquiry process to address intention, relevance, and purpose – explicitly stating to students the ‘why’ of learning and deciding together ‘how’ we will get there. Stating learning goals in ‘student friendly language’ is relative to individual classes and students.
Differentiating Instruction/Assessment; Strategies to support ELL:
Discussion is encouraged in the beginning as to how students want to demonstrate their learning, during and towards the end of the cycle. This can take on a variety of forms and/or formats, not simply through differentiating learning, but in honouring ‘student voice’ in student work.
This is an example of the ‘audit trail’ learning cycle. It reflects the beginning stages of ‘biodiversity’ following deep investigation, reflection, and explicit teaching of ‘Catholic Citizenship’. Although this learning experience was grounded in Catholicity, it may be adapted to coincide with ‘Canadian Citizenship’, ‘Social Justice’, ‘Student Voice & Agency’, etc. The ‘big ideas’ to the right are taken directly from the updated Social Studies Ontario Curriculum.
This lead into some critical questions about First Nations…
…which may then lead to cross-curricular learning; documenting critical questions generated by students during the learning:
Examples of student work:
- Personal stories after family discussions, visits to other neighbourhoods, observations
- Writing: reflection paragraphs, exit cards on post-its, journal reflections, questions on bulletin board, newspaper articles related to current issues, suggested movies/videos/songs/commercials that connect with learning goals, online responses to critical questions, feedback to other students in writing/orally during ‘knowledge building’, culminating tasks to demonstrate learning
- Small group discussions documented through Padlet (tool to create/document/share learning)
- Follow-up activities from field trips (i.e., The Toronto Zoo)
- This lead into curriculum expectation 3.1 (identify and describe the distinguishing characteristics of different groups of plants and animals, and use these characteristics to further classify various kinds of plants and animals)
- Example of classification chart for ‘understanding basic concepts’, provide content for further discussion, and possibly a template in which to classify various animals from a field trip
Critical questions for further inquiry:
- Have the percentages changed over the years?
- Why or why not?
- Predictions for future trends?
- What is our role and responsibility?
Can be used as guide for classifying plants found in local neighbourhood.
The process throughout inquiry should be made visible to all learners. Collaboratively deciding how learning will be tracked empowers students to take ownership and responsibility. A specific space (i.e., bulletin board) can become the ‘audit trail’ (Vivian Vasquez) for the inquiry process. It may be adapted for any grade and/or subject.
Other tracking tools:
- Digital device (class blog, Google doc, etc.)
- Picture/video/audio device
*Online platform is highly recommended as it fosters on-going discussion and documentation of the learning process. Many students tracked their own learning by posting questions, pictures, reflections, etc., on our class blog.
Some excerpts from online sharing which prompted more discussion:
(The goal is to inspire students to observe their world through a new [critical] lens, ask questions, wonder…to not view learning as a ‘lesson’ during class time.)
What were the guiding questions? Backwards design process:
What is it that you want your students to learn or to be able to do?
-demonstrate an understanding of the interconnectedness of all living species on the earth
-demonstrate an understanding of the influence of human species on all other living things and the effects of responsibilities and decision-making
-demonstrate an understanding of the complexities of the interconnectedness of all living things
-connect to FNMI (cross-curricular with Social Studies) as an integral part of this interconnectedness (guiding question: What assumptions and/or biases shape our understanding of the FMNI experience and biodiversity?)
-think critically about the local and global community in connection to biodiversity
-reflect, effectively communicate, critically question, share, and act on making a positive impact on the local community and environment