project based learning

Environment Display – Antarctica 4

Model and Diorama, originally uploaded by Mulsanne.

Today’s classroom display has an environmental theme in honour of Blog Action Day. I love this project which was done as part of the International Polar Year .

Dee, the teacher writes:

I began with a classroom standard, a KWL chart. On the KWL chart, students first listed what they knew (K) about Antarctica. Next, they listed questions they wanted (W) answered. Eventually, they would list what they learned (L) on the last part of the chart. The students asked some very good questions. Where do icebergs come from? What do blue whales eat in the waters surrounding Antarctica? How tall are emperor penguins? How did Shackleton and his men survive being trapped in ice? Why don’t fish freeze in the cold waters? What’s on the ocean floor? These were just a few of the questions they listed.

Not content with getting groups doing lots of online and book based research the children were able to follow and interact with the expedition team on their blog. The display came about because:

……we decided we wanted a visual representation to go along with our research. “Our Visit to The Ice” was created to provide us an avenue for artistic expression.

And it certainly did that! Have a look at all these detailed models:
Model of Palmer
My particular favourite is a model of Shacklton’s Endurance trapped in the ice:
Model of Endurance
But the penguins are cute too 🙂
Penguins in Formation

I think my students would agree that “Our Visit to The Ice” was the next best thing to a field trip to Antarctica.

I chose this display because I can’t think of anything better to be exploring with children than the wonders of such a unique and threatened environment. This is one of those projects that brings the unfamiliar to life for children and gives opportunities for deep learning. Those children will remember this project and I hope their generation will forgive ours for not taking better care of this fragile and special place.
Note Any earnings from today’s post will be donated to Common Ground a UK based charity. (As of 16/10/07 = $3)

Update: If any UK schools fancy doing something similar there are some UK teachers heading South in a few weeks . You can follow their exploits here and here – you can also find lots of lovely resources in their blog sidebars. If you create any displays based on the project please let me know 🙂

Pirate Pop-Ups – moving toys in Year 3 1

Pirate Pop-Ups, originally uploaded by LindaH.

Pneumatics were used to make these pop-up toys by Year 3. You can see how they work from the back here:
Pirate Pop-up toy - how it works
The basic design used a cereal box. One side was covered in blue funky foam (neoprene) and simple shapes were cut out to make the scene. Children then made a pirate, jolly roger, shark or other monster and stuck it onto a lolly pop stick. The pnuematic system was then attached using masking tape.
This formed part of the Treasure Island themed work for the Telling into Writing project. More details about Telling into Writing on usefulwiki

Art Workshops – working with artists 2

The main display in the hall – end of day three, originally uploaded by hydra arts.

Hydra Art Workshops are a group of artist who work in schools in the North West of England. I’ve been a fan of their work for sometime and I particulary like this recent project. They worked with 78 Year Six pupils to produce several panels for the main hall. The children who took part were presented with certificates to mark their involvement but I think the lasting impact for them will be the knowledge that their work will remain on view in the school now that they’re moving up to High School.
This kind of continuity in school can easliy be overlooked. A Leavers Assembly or a party are lovely but it’s quite powerful for children to feel that some part of their work will continue to be valued. At my last school Year 6 usually worked on a leaving gift for the school. We were lucky enough to have an artistic learning mentor but we never managed to afford ‘real’ artists. Often it was an art work for the hall, although one year they made a musical washing line for the circle garden. We felt it was important for the school to mark their departure in this way. The works were well liked by later children, some liked to remember brother’s or sister’s involvement. Sometimes when children came back for various reasons they were quite touched to see their work still on display.

Hydra Arts said:

when we were originally booked for the workshops, i absolutely wanted to mark the fact that the year 6 pupils were leaving primary school and wanted them to all be involved in the same process and contribute to a collaborative art project

Do you have experience of working with artists in schools? Did you find it worthwhile? How do later children view the art? Please tell your story in the comments.

Jane Goodall’s Camp 1

Jane Goodall's Camp

This diorama was produced by a girl in Grade 3 in a US elementary school. It’s featured in a new blog called Re-inventing Project Based Learning
Jane Krauss, the blog’s author has some kind words about the Classroom Displays blog and group and then asks an interesting question:

What do class displays tell us about what goes on in school, and about what we value in student work?

My own feeling is that in this case some of what we are valuing here is that ‘doll’s house’ urge that many little girls go through. There’s a delight in the miniturisation of the world combined with an almost obsessive eye for detail. I have vivid memories of just such a topic that grabbed my attention as an 8 year old. I spent a whole term obsessed with yurts, gers, and all things Mongolian. I built a tiny village of gers with my own handmade felt and willow twigs, made covers, rugs, and saddle bags and generally lost myself in the creation of my own tiny world. I’m not sure how much I actually learned that term, when others were doing maths or writing poems, I remained steadfastly perfecting my village. Long after the project was over I continued my interest and even now I still love yurts.

That was the topic work of the long ago ’60 and ’70s and it was swept away in England with the introduction of the National Curriculum. But of course it was never really totally swept away. Good teachers always look for ways of introducing themes, it’s just that now they might be called ‘cross curricular integration’. They’ve always looked for ways of providing work that caught children’s interests at a particular stage of development, that channeled children’s skills and built on their existing capabilities. It’s just that now it might be called ‘personalisation of learning’.

I recently asked a teacher who does a great deal of work that could be described as themed how she felt about the latest swing of the pendulum back towards project work. She surprised me by recoiling in horror. With all their faults there was no way she wanted to abandon the Literacy and Numeracy hours and return to “the chaos of the classroom free-for-all.”

So what does this diorama say to you?