We started a new unit today on natural resources, and I invited the kids to answer a question: “How can we support a sustainable planet?” They have three weeks to create a project that answers that question.
Whoa – I thought their heads would explode. But, I had anticipated that, and came up with a sub-question to help them understand the big idea: “When is a natural resource a renewable or nonrenewable resource?” Again, heads exploding in front of me. To relieve the pressure, I suggested to the Magical Minds they write down their wonderings. The kids flocked to a basket of sticky notes. Mostly they wanted to know, “What does renewable mean?”
After looking over their notes, I asked, “Do you want me to tell you what it means, or do you want to figure it out on your own?”
“No!” They holler at me. So, I step back. I pull out my clipboard and start taking notes. N and S head over to the computer and Google “renewable.” J knows right away she wants to write a haiku poem about natural resources and begins counting syllables. A begins a story about a bear who lives on a planet with no sun. K and V get on my laptop to translate renewable into Swedish and Finnish. As K and V begin to understand what the word means, I ring the musical triangle and call for a “pause for learning.” I ask the girls to share what they understand.
Within the next twenty minutes these initial inquiries give rise to a comic book, two keynote presentations, an illustration and the potential for a stop motion video.
This is new to me, this unstructured inquiry. I am taking a risk, trusting my kids and even though I am a bit terrified, I think we are all having a pretty good time.