In which my students remind me why I do inquiry.
Okay, I’ll be honest.
I’ve been having a rough time this year.
Everything makes so much more sense when I backwards design my units and front-load them with labs so that the kids learn by DOING science and THEN we make sense of it together afterwards.
And then we got to evolution and it’s the back half of the year and I’m tired and I’m like “this is my specialty and I can teach it in my sleep.” So I end up lecturing a lot.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t lecture the entire time. I did some station work, some partner mini-projects, etc, but I lectured a lot.
And then I did this awesome natural selection simulation lab. Kids colored small paper butterflies and hid them around my room. My principal came in and acted like a predator and “ate” butterflies.
When he was done, we counted up the surviving butterflies and the dead butterflies and analyzed our data. We looked at how the surviving butterflies were better suited to the environment (aka my classroom) and why my principal was unable to find them.
Today I asked my kids what they thought of the lab. I do this a lot and they’re used to giving me feedback. Usually I get stuff like, “I wish we had more time” or “It was really fun and you should definitely do this lab next year.”
Today I got this:
“You should do this lab next year, but I think you should do it on the first day of the unit. Last week I was really confused about natural selection but then we did this lab and it all clicked. I think it would be better to have this experience and then talk about natural selection rather than talk about natural selection and then have the experience.”
THIS KID IS IN 7TH GRADE, YOU GUYS. THIS KID JUST JUSTIFIED INQUIRY FOR ME FOR THE REST OF MY CAREER.
I LOVE MY JOB.
AND I AM REJUVENATED AND FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR I WILL LECTURE WITH PURPOSE.
The fourth grade teacher in the Spanish / English dual immersion school asks me to review the science text with the students in English—they’ve already learned it in Spanish—while she tends to other things. “I’m not here,” she proclaims with the certainty of someone who does not wish to be disturbed, and heads to the back of the room.
The topic: water. But I can’t understand how the text can make it so, well…dry.
Water covers most of the Earth. Most of the Earth’s fresh water is contained in glaciers. Glaciers are on every continent, even Africa, and isn’t that something! And if the glaciers happened to melt, the sea levels would rise, and then we sure would be in trouble.
I stop reading. “Do you guys know this is actually happening right now?” I ask them. “You know about global warming, right?”
They look back at me with a vague glimmer of recognition in their eyes.
“The Earth’s temperatures are getting warmer, and it’s causing the glaciers to melt. Yes, there are still snows on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, but they’re melting quickly and will be gone soon.”
I glance back nervously at the back of the classroom. I’m deviating from my assignment and hope the teacher doesn’t mind.
“What will happen when the sea levels rise?” one of the kids wants to know. “Will it come toward us?”
“We’re not near an ocean,” I tell them, “so we should be protected from the rising waters. But there will be other effects. In fifty years, the experts say Minneapolis will have a climate that’s more like Washington, D.C.”
“And Florida may be totally underwater,” adds the teacher, emerging from the back of the room, unable to stay away. “It’s on the ocean and very low.”
“New York City, too,” I say. “And there are some islands in the Pacific Ocean that are already going underwater.”
“I like how you’re stopping to go over things with them,” the teacher tells me. To the class, she announces, “This is exactly what a good teacher does.”
A good teacher? Me?