Monday, October 28, 2013

Reconstruction, an Inquiry Project? Is that even possible?

Over the last week, I have been planning with an 8th grade teacher to do inquiry project. This is a HUGE moment for me and my role as Creative Innovative Specialist. Not because this is the first time I have planned for instruction with a teacher, but because this is the first time this teacher is going to try and let student interest guide  the project! The tough part has been how to structure the project for Greg. He picked a topic that is probably too limited for real inquiry learning, and is very fact heavy.  The topic is American History, specifically Reconstruction.  I am not even sure that a try inquiry topic can have such a narrow focus, but we are going to give it a shot!

So, how do you create a student directed project on a topic that they don't really think about or wonder about. That's where it got difficult! So, we decided to go with images the time period as the jumping off point, instead of articles or textbook writings.

The images are stunning, engaging and will hopefully trigger the students to wonder about the time enough to come up with a plan of action!

There is some debate on creating the essential question for the students or letting them come up with their own. Ewan McIntosh (@ewanmcintosh) would say that it is essential that the students come up with the questions to investigate, but Greg felt that a guiding essential question is the only way to ensure that the students learn about Reconstruction, which is part of his curriculum guide.

Day 1: Our essential question is "Does racial equality depend on government action?" The plan is to give the students some background knowledge before showing them the images by doing the "K" in a KWL chart with the students, then presenting them some facts or ideas in a video that Greg created. 

Day 2: Show the student the images, in an art gallery type setting, ask them to come up with some questions that the people in the images might be asking, and do some wondering about the actual locations, time period and intent of the images. Then, ask the students what they are wondering about after working with the images. They will share their wonderings with their group, then do a some research on one of the questions that they came up with in their groups.

Day 3-7: After a little bit of research, we are going to ask the students to come up with a question that they are going research further. (We will be there to guide them away from Google-able ones, of course!) The students research their questions and look for present day connections and then find a way to share their learning with their peers.

So, is this really an inquiry based project? Not in the purest sense for sure...but, I was so happy to work with Greg to change his normally very structured question asking, fact finding projects into something that might ignite more motivation, understanding and interest in the roots of racism in our students.

I will write more posts as the unit progresses. If you have any tips or ideas, please let me know! We need all the help we can get!