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May 21, 2014

A Walk in Our Garden: Choosing Questions for Inquiry

Our guest blogger today is Rebecca Wall, who teaches Grade 1/2 students at Infusion Champion School St. Joseph's School in Chemainus, BC. She believes that an engaging, dynamic classroom is a place of wonder: a place to observe, ask questions, study and write about the natural world. Through an arts integrated, inquiry-based unit on the needs of local plants and animals, her students did just that! Come join this walk through our classroom garden!

Inspired by a book I had picked up during the summer months by Georgia Heard and Jennifer McDonough called A Place of Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary Grades (Stenhouse, 2009), I challenged students to bring in items found in nature - an acorn, a shell, a nest, a bone, a shark's tooth, a piece of pine, a flower, etc — to share in a new "Discovery Table."

The response from students and their families was beyond what I originally envisioned, with many bringing in multiple items: special stones, shells and pinecones found along the beach. Others looked through magazines and included pictures on our the bulletin board behind. Two families even sent a birds nest and fallen bee hive! Many students returned from recess each day carrying items that they felt should be included on the table. 

The students spent the early part of our inquiry observing these objects closely and recording their observations in sketch journals. They were challenged to look at each object closely and record what they actually see versus what they imagine. To help guide their observing, we also completed a scavenger hunt in our class garden area.

Next, students completed a series of lessons on the features of non-fiction texts and were challenged to ask questions to help guide our inquiry. These questions were based on what they had observed while sketching and on the new information they read in the books. They wrote their questions on post-it notes and included them on the class "Wonder Wall". These questions helped to guide further projects throughout the unit.

Pictured above, a student poses the question, "How do butterflies move from egg to caterpillar?" On another note, a student recorded her learning about plants, noting that "sunshine and rain made them grow again." These two notes became the focal points of our unit.

In the weeks to come, I plan to share the work students did studying the parts of the plant, their survival needs, and the work they have completed in our classroom garden.  We look forward to sharing our learning with you. In the meantime, you can check out what we are doing on our classroom website.

Read Rebecca's next post about this project.

Learn more about the Infusion Cohort program.

Read more guest blogs about Arts Integration in Action!

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