Opening Minds

For our first unit we are looking at humans and nature interact and how that impacts our environment.

We’ve been looking closely at Singapore, because we live here, and how the planning of the city has impacted nature, but also how nature has impacted where we choose to live, and how we choose to live.

So far it’s been really interesting, students have been using Google Earth to look at where cities are mostly located and why they may be located there, big surprise water is an important factor. Looking through field trips and museum walks we’ve started to think a little more like city planners.

Looking forward to the next couple weeks to really uncover what and how people interact with the environment.

Tadpole habitat

We’ve been working on getting a home set up for our tadpoles, last week students researched what tadpoles needed to survive and this week they started putting the habitats together.  This is pretty great for us because when we went back outside, the water is all gone, so no home for our little friends.

As a learning journey the students loved it, they learned a lot about tadpoles (and it’s still on going) and they are totally motivated to make the most out of their habitats, pretty exciting times.

Changes in the Garden

We’ve just returned from a holiday and looking out in the garden we’ve seen a lot of new wood covering the ground.  We’re going to use this to look into how systems change when humans try to make differences in our shared world.  Should be interesting.

Touching plants

When we’re outside with the little ones we’re looking for ways to engage their thinking, and hopefully drive some inquiry. One of the first things we do (and then we revisit it) is walking around touching, smelling and looking at different plants.  We try to do this so we get a better understanding of where we are, as well as feel more comfortable when working with other living things.

Second instalment

This is the second instalment of our itime with the grade 2 cca learners.  So far they have looked at some of the problems they see in the outdoor discovery center.  One of the larger problems they’ve recognized is the holes in the roof. Last week they were thinking about the different materials that could used for the roof. We thought of the idea of wood, and leaves.  We then looked around the garden to see if we could find anything around to fix it with.  Right now, we’re not sure we can actually finish this “on time” but it’s something we’re working on.

Trying video

Alright I’m trying something new.

Working in the ODC these past two years has been pretty good, this year for a CCA we’re having students develop like an itime, 20%time, maker space type thing, it’s going to take forever, and it likely won’t be great as a first go, but I take 18 grade 2 students out here three times a week for forty minutes to find problems and look for solutions.

The first bit was really just getting them used to the space, and the idea that problems exist in our real world.

We’ve found two, which i’ll get into later on, but I wanted to introduce you (to part of at least) the space we’re working in for right now

First Draft

I’ve been working on a brief fifteen minutes sense of place presentation for a conference in a couple of weeks.  Most of what I focus on is images, and after going over this a couple of times. I really notice that my font choice needs a lot of work (that will come in the next two weeks for sure).

Regardless it’s allowed me to really think out what I believe and try to condense that down into fifteen minutes and I need to entertain other educators as well.  The process is really helpful and this is now my fourth presentation and I can feel my story becoming more focused and clear.

One of the benefits of me doing an image focused slide show is that it helps me tell a story, and the images work with the words to create some new neural pathways.  One of the detriments is that it doesn’t make much sense without the story.  However, I’ll embed it anyway.

Deep learners is one of my favourite conferences because after the two fifteen minute sessions people choose what they want to spend an hour on in the afternoon.  So the deep dive will be more hands-on based where we can try to sell our favourite places, and maybe dig into some conservation photography.

Unity and standards: What are we aiming for?

       AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Chris Devers

Thanks again to the Place Being Resonance book I’ve been stuck in a world of wondering.  I apologize in advance. I know at times I am not clear in my writing, and this thought isn’t fully formed, so it might not make the most sense. 
While reading it talked about what our destruction of the world looks like, and it looks like progress, parts look like sustainable development, parts look like social justice.  It looks like we are supposed to be doing the things we are doing because that’s how people develop.  In order for humans to be unified (economically, socially, etc.) other things have to (and do) suffer.  So, when we are looking at unity, we are often just taking an anthropocentric view of what we need (and people would argue why wouldn’t we think of humans first) and we forget about what our system (The Earth) needs. While we are going for unity, I’m not really sure we know who we are unifying with, and who (or what I suppose) we are excluding. 
It’s really difficult for anyone to step back from themselves, deconstruct what they think, challenge the dominant culture and make a difference.  Where do those ideas even come from? So how can we expect people to actually protect our planet when we don’t even know what we don’t know. 
While I was pondering this, I started thinking about school, and how we are trying to hit standards and go through curriculums, and just race through to show progress.  My mind kind of paused for a second, what and who are we progressing and for what end?  Place Being and Resonance wants us to challenge how we teach, why are we moving towards more data? What is growth? Who benefits from our current system of education, and who suffers? I think deep down we know the answers to these questions, but it is difficult to challenge a system that wants to engage and enlighten our learners.  When we have public school systems that want to bring up literacy are we focusing too much on a specific type of reading? So much was flying through my head. 
I’m not really sure where to take it from there.  I know I have to listen more (not just to humans, but I need to be aware of the voices not being heard or acknowledged).  I know I have to slow things down and encourage actual thinking, and actual listening in my students.  I know I have to encourage students to be aware of a multi-vocal, eco-centric (as in not just anthropocentric) view of our planet. 
I guess the real question is how can we see the system we are in and try to fight for that system, while being aware of the multi-faceted aspects of our world.  How we can honestly unify through diversity? 

Changing our language

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by autumnal_hedge

Rarely do I think about poetry and it’s opportunity to create relationships by making metaphors.  I’ve been slowly (but diligently and thoughtfully) reading this book.

you can buy it here

It continues to change the way I think, and how I want to grow as an educator.  The whole idea of slowing doing, and really creating those deep connections is so important.  This book calls for a change in approach to how we view aspects of environmental education.  Specifically I enjoy the opportunity to engage more in poetry (which is something very new for me). 

The argument is, in order to create connections we have to foster a feeling (which I have read so many other places and firmly believe).  Before we actually get to know something, we need to feel something about it, and this is where poetry and metaphor come into play.  Instead of learning about a plant scientifically first, we have to create that awe, and that connection.  Here is where we use poetry.  
For the past week and a half I’ve been talking the grade 1 teachers and students out to the garden. First we look at something and draw it, then we listen to the world around us, and then (we don’t label) we write some poetry.  Try to fully describe our thing beautifully.  We don’t have to know the correct names, we don’t label the parts or explain what it is or does (this will all come later in the unit) we just write about it, how it looks, feels, smells, sounds and how it makes us feel.  
It’s been a really interesting exercise so far.  Everyone enjoys being outside (even if it is a little hot from time to time). The focus on the change in language has made learning more accessible for the younger students. They aren’t as worried about being right, they just need to talk about how they feel, so it’s easy for them to start.  Once we’ve made some connections then we start the deeper understanding (which will be easier because we actually care). 
It’s a great start so far.