I sat down with the social studies curriculum the other day, double checking to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. As I looked at all of the expectations, I realized I hadn’t done that much with mapping this year. We did a bit, but not much. Then I looked over the geometry things I knew I had left and realized that I really hadn’t done enough mapping. So last week, we worked on mapping!
After talking about maps and their need to make things really clear and help people find things, I gave everyone a piece of graph paper. They all drew a map of our school yard. They did a pretty good job!
Then when we went on a walk for science, I asked everyone to pick up a small rock. Back at the class, we painted them different colours. The next day, I asked everyone to think of a place where they could hide their rock, then mark that spot with an X. We were going outside to hide our rocks in that spot, then trade maps and see if someone could find our rock. Everyone was very excited to head outside and get started.
I hadn’t, of course, anticipated that the kindergarten would be outside at this exact time. It’s ridiculous because they go outside at the same time every day, but I was so excited about my own thing that I forgot about their thing. Soon, as you may have guessed, there were 10 or so kindergarten completely over the moon because they’d found a gorgeous rock unexpectedly in the yard.
New plan: The next day, I drew a map. We were talking about symmetry, and I had shown a picture of school on Google Earth. It’s a completely symmetrical building! My map was an ariel view of the space just outside the fence. We’ve walked there a million times. During recess I ran back to a less than secret spot, and hid a bag of candy.
When the bell rang, I met everyone outside. I had them join their May Learning Partner and share a copy of my map while they searched for the treasure. Everyone wandered around for a about 10 minutes before someone said, “This doesn’t make sense. The X is behind the school, not in the play yard. It doesn’t make sense!”
“Why not?” I asked. He just kept repeating “It doesn’t make sense.” Finally I prompted, “Well, are you trying to say we need to leave the play yard and go behind the school?”
He gave me a blank look and then said, “Yeah. I think we do.” He then went about trying to see if anyone agreed with him and soon we were headed to the back yard.
“Pick a landmark,” I told them. “Someplace where you want me to stand.” They picked a spot; I reminded them that if they found the treasure they were to keep it a secret and come sit beside me. Two people actually did that before another person was overcome with excitement and gave the hiding place away with a loud, “Here it is!!” But they were all in the general vicinity when he did that, so I’m calling this a success.
For the past few weeks I have been experimenting with using the outdoors as the classroom. We go out to do work we could be doing indoors, but I am also trying to do things that teach about the outdoors, and use the outdoors as a resource, not just a work space. I feel like this activity would have been less successful inside because we would have all been a bit more stressed about the noise we generated. (Ok, mostly that would be me.) I also feel like it would have been less successful if we hadn’t been outdoors so much lately, taking the time to notice the yard and the trees, and exploring the landmarks (natural and human made) around us. I feel like putting the math and mapping skills into this context helped everyone see meaning in the activity. (Another example of how Cathy Fosnot is right about everything!)
Technically I have now accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. But there are only a few weeks left until the summer break and that is when the really good stuff happens if you ask me. I am quite sure that I could do this activity a few more times. My map drawing skills will greatly improve! I also think I can get some members of the class to draw the maps for other members to follow. I have 6 grade 3s and the drawing is more for them anyway. They will love drawing a map to help their classmates get to the ingredients for an ice cream party on the last day!
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