The students in Grades 3 and 4 have been on a journey of inquiry and discovery these last few months, delving into a variety of topics via a collaborative inquiry/project based dynamic. They have learned as much about themselves and what they are capable of as they have about the topics themselves. One of the major comprehensive units of study has focused on Medieval Times, with the students building castles in Investigative Research, completing a novel study during literacy, and writing their own creative stories.
In Investigative Research the project here was for the students to recreate a castle and surrounding village in a very hands-on, student centered, and collaborative way. Creating something like this in a tactile visual way, in a kinesthetic environment, was critical for full understanding from the students point of view in reinterpreting Medieval life, and to bring that period of time into the classroom so that we could actually touch it, interact with it, and reflect on it. The students brought their own energy and creativity, sense of wonder and history, and verve to the project.The Reggio principles of ‘The student as protagonist, collaborator, and communicator’ were very important in a project like this, and the students made decisions about everything, right from the early planning stages to the construction phase. Learning how to make good decisions and take ownership of those decisions was an integral component of the thinking process. Learning how to make decisions collaboratively took the process one step further, and made it a true collaborative experience. Questions like ‘what kind of materials will we need’, and ‘what is our plan for today’ became standard provocations on a daily basis.For this project, the students were divided up into small groups of 4 or 5, so collaboration was very important, and students had to really learn how to listen to each other and learn how to compromise right from the start. In this way, they learned how to take ownership for their effort and work, and to critically think through issues as they arose, whether it be about materials or where a tower might go on the castle. This was an important social skill for them to work on, and ultimately refined their sequential processing abilities in a socially constructed learning environment.In-depth research, often on the ipad was also a big part of this project, with the students learning how to ask questions, make a plan, conduct meaningful and rich research, and then manipulate that information for specific purposes. In this case, that purpose was to find out how society was structured during Medieval Times within the paradigm of Feudalism, and what life was like for the different strata of society. Becoming component researchers, thinking about information critically, and then applying that information were vital skills to develop via this project to the fullest. The students pursued many different strands of research like castle formation, peasant villages, food and clothing, knights and armor, Lords and Ladies, and how society was structured during Feudal Times.Inquiring Minds looks forward to sharing further details on the project work unfolding with Grades 3 and 4 in an upcoming blog post.
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