Monday, January 21, 2013

Investigations: Starting Where We Left Off, Yet Starting Anew

It is remarkable to stop and think about how the whole process of investigative research evolves in a constructivist classroom.  What becomes a catalyst for deeper understanding of the world around us?  What inspires creativity and connected thinking?  What will sustain students’ interest and spur them to consider new ideas and try on new theories?  To think that our investigative research began this fall with a simple sunflower seed…and now we’re extending our thinking and beginning anew with the study of worms…all of it germinating from the big question of what it means to be alive, and all of it reflective of life’s interconnectivity.  This is a big and juicy question, one that lies beneath the surface of students’ imaginative wondering, and one that people of all ages wrestle with in many different contexts.  Exploring that big idea in the form of a seed or a worm with young minds and watching it unfold in unexpected ways breathes life into our classroom.  

In December, our class began to expand their thinking about decomposition in plants to think more about the part that animals play in the process.  N., F., T., and B. led the charge early on by drawing and creating animals that are dependent upon plants:  spiders, snails, flies, snakes, and of course, worms [see our earlier blog post back in November].  They then developed designs for a decomposition machine in Anna’s studio - machines that process "bad" dirt into "good" soil.  Even here, along with the cogs, gears, pulleys, and wheels, worms play a part in making it all happen. 

Later in the classroom, they drew diagrams of what the worms’ home might look like in our worm bin and underground in their natural habitat. 
You might not realize this, but some worms are pretty technologically advanced....
F. and N. also thought about what a worm hospital might look like.   
Especially interesting is the emergency room and recovery room for tail injuries.   
Once the worms are better, they can grab a compost lollipop on the way out.  

Near the end of the month, we brought our investigations of living systems to several new lines of inquiry for the students:  
·         What’s on the inside of a worm?
·         Are worms decomposers?  How do they do it?
·         What is the relationship between a worm and the soil?
·         How does a worm move?

All of the students circulated in groups throughout the classroom to answer one of these questions each day. Together, they shared what they already knew as well as what they had learned collaboratively in class, and began to make theories, guesses, and questions that took them in new directions.

After reviewing the work that came out of these thinking and drawing sessions, we saw that there were three main through lines that kept popping up in the students’ thinking, and so three groups were formed to extend their explorations further:  the interior structure/anatomy of a worm group, a movement group to think more about how the physicality of worm movement, and a “filter” group that was interested in investigating exactly how the gizzard works inside the worm to turn dirt, rock, and bacteria into good, useable soil. 

We shared our ideas about the value of brainstorming and using a variety of strategies to inform our work.   Overlap between the work of the three groups was to be expected as an eventuality, but grouping gave the children the space to slow it down and bounce ideas off of each other, to think more deeply about their given topic before bringing it back to the larger work of the group.  The blog posts to follow document the work of the three groups and the evolution of their thought processes. 

1 comment:

  1. Oh, my! The "technologically advanced" worms and their compost lollies just made me laugh out loud. I love the minds of kids!