Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Five Senses and Why LEGO?

As I was browsing through my pictures of my recent Arctic trip today I am brought back to one specific day when I decided to be fully aware of my five senses as I observed the natural environment.
Drip Castle?
Photograph by Julia Sheldon
As scientists and teachers we know these experiences are vitally important to our student's ability to learn and connect to the content yet we can take an experience like a an owl pellet dissection and make it into a paper activity by asking students to complete a packet related to what they found in the pellet. It is the experience of dissecting that has the most profound impact in the end.
We also need to get out of the classroom! We need to emphasize that the five senses we taught about in first grade are not an elementary topic but a habit that scientists use continually. Whether we are confident or not in the teaching of science, we need to display this willingness to touch and experience and even more importantly model curiosity and exploration to our students. I am reminded of a recent visit to Rebecca Cumming's class at Pelham Elementary School. Rebecca's students were building composting units with worms. She had no problem reaching into the dirt and pulling out piles of worms so her students could see what those little composters looked like. Her best line of the day was "Poop matters" as she emphasized the important role they critters play in the soil.

Squish of the Arctic Tundra
Photograph by Julia Sheldon
How does this relate to my love of LEGO and building in the classroom you might ask? Building with any material is a kinesthetic experience that allows children to cement their learning and display what they know. Building utilizes the senses. While learning can be communicated with writing it is important to provide our students with other methods of assessment. A model can instigate a conversation about the observation made, the habitat, or even the thought process in scientific inquiry. Students can build representations of a living creature in their natural habitat or a scene that depicts a predator/prey relationship. What about a model that represents curiosity in the natural environment or the changing nature of the fragile Arctic environment? When we ask children to build, it needs to be without judgement. Too often students are asked to build according to directions or steps. The types of models and builds that I advocate for in the classroom, encourage creativity and instigate conversation about issues in our environment and solutions. Please keep tuned to Brick Trips as I continue to share ideas for classrooms and promote collaborative brick trips for classrooms to join!
Polar Bear swimming between the pack ice.
Photograph by Julia Sheldon

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