Describing the world around us

Grade 6 Individuals & Societies Class sketching our local environment

Grade 6 Individuals & Societies Class sketching our local environment

In an early unit for the Grade 6 students at PIA, we’ve begun to explore ways of describing the world around us in geographical terms.  Students have been analyzing and creating their own maps and building their vocabulary as it relates to our immediate environment.

On Friday, we spent the morning practicing techniques such as field sketching to capture and communicate the world around us.  Students finally got a chance to get up close to the cows in the pasture across school as they sketched the landscape around campus.

Read more about our morning and check out photos here.

This activity is building towards a summative assessment, in which students will be asked to create an informative brochure, which focusses on part of our island.   Students will be drawing their own maps, describing the local area through words and drawings and demonstrating their knowledge and communication skills through this independent project.


The Power of Experience

sunset at cabrini. photo by paul goyette on Flickr

I came into education through an experiential learning programme in Chicago. 2 years after completing the University-accredited ‘study abroad’ myself, I joined the staff of the Urban Life Center (now Chicago Center) and supported students as they discovered Chicago for themselves. South Shore Cultural Center, the Murals of Pilsen, Boystown and all that was happening on the streets of Uptown. These were some of the experiences that transformed lives in big and small ways.

15 years later, it continues to serve as an exemplar of the power and importance of experience (and reflection) in the learning process.

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Assessing and Scaffolding Research Skills

JFK>>> Very practical approaches for Inquiry-based learning!

Digging a Little Deeper

Research skills are an important facet of being a student in the digital world, and yet these skills are often assessed in very traditional ways. I often see the end product of a research task being assessed; such as students creating a newsletter, writing an essay or completing a presentation. Seldom do teachers try to assess the students ability to use key words, refine search results, make judgements on authenticity and eventually synthesis the results. Whilst they maybe hinted at in the final product the process of searching for information is poorly taught and even more poorly assessed.

As a Digital Literacy Coach, I have therefore been looking at ways of using technology to redefine how we might scaffold students in their research using ideas such as a Google Search Hints, Research Templates and Screen Recording tools to capture student thinking.

Google Search Hints:

Keywords are the keys to unlocking information on the internet…

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Community Mapping: Empowerment through democratization of information

JFK>>>  This is a nice collection of ideas for community mapping projects with some cool tech integration. I can imagine are all sorts of interesting iterations of this: Map a Fruit Tree in school.   How about:  Urban parks?  Fresh markets?  Recycling Centers?   Whose ready???

who where why

I recently gave a talk about community mapping at a Living Streets Aotearoa meeting. This post contains the examples of community mapping that I mentioned in the talk. All these examples all fall within my general area of research, i.e. social health and wellbeing, and almost all of these examples use google maps.

Note:  By “community mapping”I mean maps made by the community. There are other things it might possible be called or related to: neogeography, participatory mapping, volunteered geographic information, collaborative mapping etc. I didn’t have time to figure out the appropriate name.

Example 1: Mapping the location of fruit and urban edibles

Example 2: Bicycle routes

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Mapping Worlds: Stretching Boundaries and Deepening Analysis

The Aging Population

Mapping Worlds hosts a great online tool for unique analysis of human development data.  Is it a policy making tool?  Probably not.   However, this is an excellent resource for Humanities / Social Studies students who may struggle to comprehend statistics in a more traditional way.   What does it mean in real terms, when we read about an aging population?   This site helps to unpack these questions in innovative ways.