The start of the school year has me looking at my whole years curriculum. Asking am I being inclusive enough, do I allow enough project and self exploration? Do I get sucked into the trap of going outside is something you 'earn'?
I ask my Ecology students to have a "Personal Spot" in the school yard that they will observe throughout the school year. It is similar to the "reflections spot" from my earlier post Reunion. Some students really enjoy the time in their "spot" and return to class excited about what they saw, felt, experienced. Others hate it. They don't understand why I make them go outside let alone stay still in one place without their phones or ipods or any technology. I become evil.
We spend at minium 10 minutes a month in our Personal Spots.
This week I sent my students out to find what spot they would like to "have" for the year. I set it up like a speed dating experience. I explained that they were to find a place in the school yard that was not in or on anything human made with a few exceptions. The dock and pathways were okay, but the swing, road, parking lot, benches, pick-nick tables were not okay. The students can not be close to another person to be able to talk to them in a normal voice - they are to spread out. They were to go to a place and document what they observed, it was okay if they did not know names of plants or animals, but they were to observe who was there. Then when I said switch - about 3 or 5 minutes later - they were to find a new place to observe. At the end of the period they needed to visit 3 different places in the school yard.
We ended the class in a discussion about what they saw in general, what spots they did not enjoy, why and what spots they did enjoy and what about it was enjoyable. I always find it interesting that most students are very aware of crickets and grasshoppers and that can make or break a good Personal Spot.
When we have Personal Spot days all students will always document the Date, Time and Weather with every entry in their journal. The weather report is to be self determined, and not looked up on their smart phone or computer. This is designed to be field notes. Later in the year they will conduct labs on biodiversity in their spots as well as draw maps and small field guides to the plants and animals around their spot.
I greatly enjoy Personal Spot day, even if I become evil for making them go outside unplugged. I can handle that responsibility.