Embarking on a Learning Journey

Nothing makes me more fresh for the classroom than embarking on a new learning journey.  I generally start each year with a new investigation--a topic that neither my students or I know that much about.  This invigorates my classroom approach in many ways.  First, it reminds me what it's like to be a learner embarking on a new concept, skill or task.  Next, it excites me as my world lens broadens and deepens.  Also, it reminds children about how exciting and wonderful learning is.

This year, I'm going to tackle the topic of biodiversity under the umbrella of our standards-based animal adaptation unit.  The recent National Geographic article, Food Ark by Charles Siebert (July 2011), inspired this exploration.  I was fascinated by the article's photos of biodiversity taken by Jim Richardson.  I know students will be in awe when they see the photos of such diverse collections of chickens, corn, cows, seeds and potatoes.

I'm also inspired to embark on this unit because I know it's a vital topic in our world today, a topic that touches upon all cultures and geographic locations.  After this unit, our class will begin to investigate the concepts of culture, regions, migration and endangered species.  This focus on biodiversity will provide a scientific backdrop to our future units.

Further, our year will begin with an investigation of numbers and number sense.  There are many great numbers to read, discuss, estimate and explore in Food Ark, thus making a real world math connection.

I tweeted this idea yesterday and was led to the Ted Talk on biomimicry which I'll view soon.  In the meantime, I've got a lot of research to do to prep the unit and guiding posters, links and questions.

Do you start the year with a shared exploration?  If so, what's the topic?  Also, do you teach biodiversity or animal adaptation?  If so, how do you make the learning both meaningful and standards based?  Thanks for sharing in my initial reflection related to this exploration.  As always, I welcome your thoughts, ideas and challenges.    - Maureen

Photo of amazing varieties of potatoes from Food Ark, National Geographic, July 2011, p. 123
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