Following the Inquiry

As challenging as my start up has been this year, I remain committed to an Inquiry focus.

December focused on the idea of ‘Giving Back’
Big Ideas – We contribute to make the world better
Essential Understandings
How are needs (beyond our possible) identified and resolved?
Guiding Questions
What is the United Nations?
What is the Red Cross/Crescent?
Who are local aid providers and what do they provide?

They were role playing as UN Fieldworkers on assignment to help the Yanomami people in northern Brazil. The intention is that we would learn about the rainforest and be able to figure out what these people need. (The reality is that they don’t need anything – we have to examine our own cultural boundaries of what needs are and if we are imposing them on others.) The class was able to refocus to acknowledge we don’t need to help the ‘uncontacted’ tribes as they are self sufficient without outside contact. The contacted tribes have been impacted by external values and now have different needs. (I found this a great way to examine several social studies PLO’s such as influences on indigenous cultures over time.)

FreetheChildren.com has been a good resource to explore profiles of individuals in the rainforest and their life and our perceived needs for them. In addition, we have started exploring the organizations project of ‘Adopt a Village’

We have just completed our virtual field trip to the Amazon Rainforest. There were many activities to help develop the understanding throughout this project; however the two main activities were a travel journal and a Genius Hour research project.

Many did well on parts of the travel journal as a piece of writing but were not able to integrate well their inquiry or our class learning into the project. I had hoped they would be able to include what they were learning and what others in their ‘UN Fieldworker team’ were learning in their Genius projects. This was their first major writing activity and showed me just how much work was needed on the physical writing as well as the thinking behind their writing. (I believe in reducing barriers so part of their assignment was to do a journal as a drawing, a hand printed, a computer printed and a video entry – then choice for the rest.)

I believe in Genius Hour but I have not yet found a way to provide them with freedom to learn what they are passionate about. I structured it with a limited scope of topics that have to relate to the Amazon (rainforest, plants, animals, people, climate etc). The product of their learning and exploration time was a 1 page handout that we copied for every other student. In addition, they did a 1 minute oral presentation. While it was successful to have students learning what they were interested in, it showed the need to build a variety of skills as well.

Looking back on the Inquiry – How did we do???
Not what I expected, but I am confident that Inquiry-based learning was active throughout the unit.

Giving Back –
Each team had to decide what they were going to do to help the Yanomami. They did come up with a team goal. They each chose something to help such as, providing water filtration, medical supplies, and hand tools for farming.
Big Ideas – We contribute to make the world better
Yes they all stepped into the role to be a helper and make improvements. They also had to create a persuasive video as to why the UN should continue to provide support for their cause.
Essential Understandings
How are needs (beyond our possible) identified and resolved?
I don’t think they answered this (which is fine). They have started to understand the complexity of needs and how needs and wants change based on the perspective you have.
Guiding Questions
What is the United Nations?
Yes they have this and understand the creation of the UN and some of the hard choices (possibly mistakes) the UN has made since its inception. Sometimes just being there is enough and others you need to step in to stop bloodshed.

What is the Red Cross/Crescent?
(didn’t do)
Who are local aid providers and what do they provide?
(we are continuing to look into Free the Children and Kiva as organizations that have plans in place more than giving farm vehicles to people in Africa – as happened in the 80’s.)

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