FSBL – “Father Son Based Learning.” An actual and experimental/metaphorical journey – time with my son and time to examine place-based inquiry learning.
On Friday, April 22, from 10:30 a.m. until about 4:30 p.m., my four-year-old son and I embarked on an Atlanta adventure. I had just come home from reading and writing at a coffee house, after I had dropped my older son at school around 7:40 a.m. JT, or Jbird (he has two nicknames), and I decided on a whim to go get on a MARTA train and see where we ended up. JT loves trains, so trains seemed a good hook to begin the adventure. Getting on a train was the only real decision I made for Jackson.
I took two packages of Captains Waffers and my iPhone and wallet. Those were our supplies. With my iPhone, I would take notes and pictures/videos and post to “Posterous” – an email-based blog system that is as easy as easy can be. I have my Posterous set up to auto-post to Twitter, too, so I get a “two-fer.” On my first post, I failed to include the # symbol, so it will not show up in a Twitter hashtag search. But here is the post that launched the adventure: http://boadams1.posterous.com/an-adventure-fsbl. The other posts can be found on Twitter, using the #FSBL hashtag, or one could simply browse backwards through my 4-22-11 Posterous posts. [There is a link to my Posterous blog on the right column of this It’s About Learning blog – it’s called “Bo’s Links – Bo’s Observation Journal.”]
First and foremost, JT and I had an AMAZING day! We rarely get time for just the two of us, and the time on Friday was magical. We had a blast! But I also got another two-fer…
Secondly, though, I felt I was continuing my investigation of place-based learning possibilities. At Westminster, we enjoy a 180-acre campus. But I am not at all certain that we maximize our use of this incredible resource – our space around us. What if we mildly guided students to explore campus with a package of Captains Waffers and an iPhone-like device? What images and questions might they capture about Nancy Creek or other features of our campus? As teams explored our surrounds and posted to a Posterous observation journal, the other teams could keep track of other explorers via Twitter. What connections might be discovered? Project possibilities might arise from such a day, or even just a period, of exploration. Someone might get interested in the water quality and biology of Nancy Creek. All of a sudden science and writing and history and math might become integrated as field studies led to persuasive letters to Atlanta City Council about cleaning up Nancy Creek – a battle place during the Civil War. Other explorers might use something like the Wild Lab Birds app to chronicle the species of feathered creatures we have on campus. Other teams might examine our use of space in campus planning…”Why did they put that building there?” Such a question might lead to asking to see the master plans for campus which are stored in our Physical Plant and Business Office. Now students could be interacting with other school staff about “city” planning, architecture, and landscaping/environmental issues. Perhaps a team might decide to tap parent resources – people who serve as city planners, architects, etc. Perhaps students might design presentations for improvements and enhancements to their own school or city of Atlanta.
Oh the places we could go! Oh the projects we could explore! Oh the difference we could make! If we would just rethink what it means to be in school. If we would just innovate and leverage the potential of combining our community space with 21st century technologies. Endless learning possibilities. Real learning possibilities.
Wanna go explore? Get a pack of crackers – just in case. And take a 21st century field notebook. Then remember that joyful word that begins many a toddlers vocabulary – “LOOK!”
Back in my Field Geology days I always made it a point to build in a nature unit: tree anatomy and identification, natural landmarks, etc. We took frequent walks around campus, down to the creek, even onto the Kosh Loop. It’s been seven years since I chaperoned that life-changing course, and my distance from that frame of mind is evident in my teaching. I haven’t taken my students for a walk in a long time.
It goes to show that all teachers bring circumstance into their classroom. When I immersed myself in nature, I felt it only natural to bring nature into my classroom. I’m sure if I made it a point to get myself back “outside,” my classroom would follow.
On a related point, I have asked myself often why I (and so many others) struggle to complete that second peer observation. There is plenty of time and opportunity to do so. And I love visiting other teachers’ classes! But much like nature, interdependency is not a circumstance the traditional teacher is familiar with.
I think we would both agree that, slowly but surely, that’s changing.
Bo – love this as applied to master planning on the campus. Who decided that the West Wesley entrance should be so narrow– and sidewalk-less — that pedestrians can’t use it safely during high traffic times such as morning drop offs and afternoon pick ups? What about a dedicated bike lane? Would love to see where thoughtful student-driven “city” planning might take the school.
It was a thrill to watch your tweets and see where you guys would wind up next. I can’t wait to try something similar with my own 6 mo old.
You shouldn’t be surprised to know that there’s a lot of hard scientific evidence to back up the value you see in place based eudcation. In fact, the National Resource Council released a report arguing that informal science—trips to museums and backyard explorations—are the key to sparking long term interest in science.
Here’s a write up about that report by Michael Doyle, a truly incredible biology teacher in NJ that should be in everyone’s RSS feed.
As I frequently walk our campus with Maggie, our five year old maltepo, I too agree that there is much to learn around our campus with a walk, few tools, and one’s imagination. Walking along Nancy Creek brings up all kinds of ideas of projects for classes. What is the velocity of the stream, what about erosion along the creek, what about doing a survey of types of trees, the animal life, etc.? What about a study of nature drawings in art classes? I think if we used the spaces we have more creatively for learning, we would open up the imagination of our students to all kinds of projects, etc. I think your walks with your sons are great ways of discovering all kinds of possibilities. Why don’t we have a course in the ES, JHS, maybe HS on exploring our campus as a learning environment?