Oct 11 2019
EXPLORING THE NATURAL WORLD – INTERDISCIPLINARY INQUIRY IN ES
Our Elementary School (ES) curriculum nurtures curiosity and empowers students to have voice and choice in their learning.Following an inquiry-based learning approach, knowledge acquisition occurs not only through teaching, but also through student-led exploration of topics in diverse contexts. This is often realized in an interdisciplinary inquiry unit, where students are challenged to convert theory into practice by exploring a topic through immersive classroom experiences.
Recently, the fourth grade (G4) had an interdisciplinary inquiry unit on "ecology, nature, and the food chain". This saw G4 classes move between classrooms exploring different aspects of "ecology, nature, and the food chain", consisting of five modules: animal and plant classification, classification reflection, wolves in the wild, microscopic observation labs, and a study of diverse biological populations.
In the microscope lab zone, students worked their way around different microscope stations, observing cell slides, drawing and describing what they see ,and making conjectures about where the cells comes from. In order to gain a greater understanding of the wider biological populations and their habitats, students were shown clips from the global-hit documentary series "Planet Earth". The parts shown to students painted a picture of animal migration across vast distances and how this has been impacted by harsher natural conditions brought on by climate change. Students were then asked to write a reflection on this experience, increasing awareness of this global crisis and its impact on animals.
Students were then broken into pairs and given a set of picture cards with various animals and plants, which they were asked to classify and organize according to characteristics they could determine themselves. Many groups used creative groupings such as "winged", "monochromatic", and "cute", with one group of students organizing the cards into a whole ecosystem. Students then took time to write a reflection on the reasons why they classified their cards in their specific way. Following this session, students took an in-depth look at the habits of wolves in the wild, getting to experience the often-grueling life of a wolf pack.
This range of activities helped to deepen students' scientific and social understanding of biodiversity, the complexity of ecosystems, and wider regional and global natural patterns. The delicate system in place in the natural world can often be forgotten or swept over in our fast-paced, modern lives, this interdisciplinary inquiry unit immersed students into this topic and allowed them to guide learning over a variety of areas.