Thursday, September 24, 2015

When Learning Comes to Life!

When I was a child, you wouldn’t find me playing structured games, such as baseball, soccer, or even board games. I loved creating my own games, especially the kind where I could role-play make believe characters on a fabulous adventure! Dressing up in princess gowns and turning the house furniture into my magical world is just a slight glimpse of what was once my young imagination!

 When I look back at my days as a student, the greatest moments were the ones when I was able to use my imagination. For example, I can remember all the way back to my Kindergarten class when we were learning about space. We spent the day pretending to be astronauts. We made spacesuit equipment out of milk jugs and paper towel rolls, our classroom chairs became our rocket ships, and when we made it to “space” we were able to view all the planets and stars in the galaxy (that were hanging from the classroom ceiling).

As a child I learned best through these types of simulations, because it allowed me to use my imagination to learn. As a teacher I try to offer similar learning opportunities to help excite and engage my students in new learning topics. The 3rd/4th Gifted Differentiated Engagement Block (DEB) learning theme for the year is, Exploration. My goal was to bring their learning to life. What would be a better way to do this then by having them become explorers themselves?

First...lets set the scene. The playground equipment was the explorers’ ship, and the wood chips was the land being explored. Eight brown bags were set up throughout the area, and inside the bags were the explorers’ treasures (items/motives for why real explorers traveled).

Treasure Bags
 Before the explorers set off on their voyage today, they were given a map.The map pinpointed areas they would be able to find the treasures. 

Treasure Maps
The explorers traveled in pairs. When they found a treasure they read the clue, which pertained to the item inside the bag. When they correctly solved the clue they checked it off on their map.

Looking for treasures.

We had some explorers even dress the part!
...But as we all know, it wasn’t always easy for the real explorers, it was actually extremely tough. Many explorers back in the day were not able to complete their journeys because of obstacles getting in their way. 

 Therefore...randomly, throughout their voyage, pairs of explorers were handed obstacle cards. These obstacle cards represented challenges real explorers faced along the way. For example, bad weather, illness, ship damage, unknown mountain ranges, etc. If pairs of explorers were handed an obstacle card, they were to go back to their ship. While at the ship, they were to correctly complete a problem on the back of the card (which represented solving their issue), before continuing on their journey.

Obstacle Cards
Solving the problem on the obstacle card.
 The end of class was the end of the explorers’ voyage. Tomorrow we will conclude our lesson by reflecting on our travels. Why would it be difficult to be an explorer? Would leaving your family behind be worth it for the treasures? What were some feelings you felt while traveling on your voyage and why?

Student Reflection
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”~Albert Einstein

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