Inquiry: Looking Forward… Looking Back.

6 05 2014

At the end of our last unit of inquiry, I remember the amazing feeling of contentment that settled over my class: A sense of pride and accomplishment.  The students had dug deeper and engaged in richer learning than I had ever witnessed before.  Looking around, and reflecting on their learning, … the view was  spectacular!

Starting a new inquiry ….It’s full of curiosity, interest and at times completely overwhelming.  My stomach has a lurching feeling – a mixture of excitement and nausea.  Having gone through unit long inquiries with my students before, I feel both better equipped and completely inadequate to start this daunting new task.  Our first inquiry was an exciting unknown journey full of wonder and it gave us the freedom to dig deeper and think harder than we had ever done before.  Now, at the cusp of a new inquiry, I’m feeling both eager and reluctant.  I’m excited because I know the amazing learning opportunities that will arise.  Likewise, I’m reluctant to plunge into the abyss of the collective unknown again.  I know that embracing innovation and change is important, but there are times when being pushed out of my comfort zone, is, well, uncomfortable.  Plunging into a unit of learning where I’m unsure of the exact path we will take is both liberating… and scary.

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Our classroom is covered with chart papers:  Lists, questions, ideas, groupings.  Our typical “Guided Reading” times have been replaced with “Guided Inquiry” and “Inquiry Research” replaces “Independent Reading and Writing” times.

Yesterday, I sat with one group for our first Guided Inquiry time together.  As I pulled up a chair, I looked into the faces of my students.  “I’m a little nervous”, I admitted.  “I’m not quite sure how this is going to go.” I said cautiously.  A smile broke across one of my student’s faces.  “Me too.” She said.  “What’s your starting point?” I asked…. “Let’s go from there.”… and the conversation grew, questions started to form, ideas began to take shape.  Before us, the initial path to discover began to appear.

All of the learning I have done this year around the new SSHG has taught me that students are to ‘do the work of historians’, or ‘do the work of geographers’.  Well, how exactly do historians do their work?  They start with the evidence in front of them and figure out what it all means… by asking questions and digging (sometimes literally) for answers.  This sounds familiar… Ask questions, and search for answers… Inquiry!!

As my students explore the various elements of Heritage and Identity (Communities in Canada, Past and Present), they will do just that.  Begin with artifacts (something concrete) that show that someone (or some group or people) came before and search back through time to determine it’s historical value.

  • Perspective: Who’s stories can we uncover?
  • Significance:  Why was it important? What was it’s impact?
  • Interrelationships:  How did the environment effect the way people lived?  How did people effect the environment?

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Simple… and yet complex.  Exciting… and overwhelming.  All at the same time.

In the past two days, I have met with four of the five groups.  Some groups buzzing with excitement, and some seemingly paralyzed by the openness ahead.  “What’s your starting point?” … Starting with something concrete (an artifact, an image, an item, a map, a painting)… and working backwards through the sandglass of time….

Right now, at the start of a new inquiry, the lens is muddy, the path promises to be wide and overwhelming at times… but hopefully, the destination will be well worth it.  Because, when we reach the end and are looking back, I know that the view will be spectacular!

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