Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Mind Opening Approach to Teaching... A Powerful Week of Change

Who knew on Monday what would happen when making my first trek up the Merritt Parkway, paired with an arduous stretch on Interstate 91 north, leading to a tucked away magnet school named "Two Rivers". Who knew that I and many others would find that within four days our entire mindset and approach to teaching and learning would be wholly transformed.

This week I along with 28 other fabulous teachers from Danbury, New Milford, and Newtown are entrenched in a new learning and discovery to help understand how to teach science (and all disciplines) in a more practical, logical, and intrinsically motivating way.  We are instructed by three classroom teachers who have been where we are and still teach in a classroom every day.  They have the knowledge, resources and the "educational toolbox"  to help solve our problems and answer our questions.  

We are learning the process of teaching using inquiry based methods.  I will not outline all of the details, but basically using careful planning, guidance and well executed lessons, you create a framework in your classroom that allows students to dig deeper into subject matter that is highly motivating to them. You create a classroom full of curiosity and wonder, a classroom of discovering, asking more questions, and unearthing new information.  

Tuesday and Wednesday we were exposed to stream tables and did a short guided activity with the flow and slope. Out of this came many questions that we had.  We were then able to pick a question we wanted explore with like-minded individuals who wanted to explore the same question.  There were eight different investigations simultaneously being conducted in a small classroom.  My group of four was so focused on our investigation of the formation of deltas (see our deltas in the picture above), we were oblivious to the flurry of activity around us.  We were given a basic framework, time, materials, and trust to work together to accomplish our goal of making new discoveries. We did.  We collaborated, assigned roles, measured, discussed.  We presented our investigation and the data collected.  Most of all we had fun...and learned.  We learned more than we ever could have in an article about delta formations.  Could an article be helpful to our understanding?   Absolutely!  It does not need to be a front-loading activity for the students.  Much more was gleaned from this cooperative endeavor than could ever be from a text.

Making a shift and leaving your teaching comfort zone is quite a challenge.  My thinking about instruction is beginning to change.  Now I need to jump in, push away the apprehension and doubt swirling about in my mind and get to it.

(We have learned so much more.  I will continue to write about this inquiry approach because we will be working on how to implement this in science all year long.  I am going to be thinking about and trying this approach in reading and math as well.  Our program is a collaborative effort between Danbury, New Milford, Newtown public schools, Western Connecticut State University, The Connecticut Science Center, and the Sate Department of Education.  It is an instructional  coaching academy funded through a Math Science Partnership grant.  I will attach the link at a later date.)

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