On Display: The Pet Rabbit Inquiry: A TC's First IBL Adventure!

Friday, October 4, 2013

I love Friday's, because it is my chance to make visible the wealth of knowledge that is out there in the AMAZING world of early childhood education!!! 

Highlighting the documentation and reflections of colleagues who inspire me, has taught me more than I could have ever hoped! Sometimes I feel like a journalist uncovering an important new story, that MUST be shared...  

"On-Display" features have given me this opportunity to share and have truly been at the heart of my own personal learning.  I hope that they have been equally influential for all of you!

Today I will share the learning adventure of Marietta Sofos.  Marietta was a Teacher Candidate in our classroom last year from York University.  Mrs. Ham and I were incredibly pleased with the creative direction(s) she took our Pet Rabbit Inquiry.

Here is a Prezi Presentation that she created especially for our blog:



My name is Marietta and I was a teacher candidate from York University's Consecutive education program. “Thank you” is an inadequate expression to convey my gratitude to Joanne. I was honoured to work alongside such a compassionate and dedicated teacher who epitomizes what a teacher is and should strive to be. Joanne's ongoing support and guidance powerfully shaped my life as a teacher.  Amongst the many lessons learned in Joanne and Julie's classroom, her innovative practice of inquiry-based learning will resonate with me the most.  I am fortunate that I was given this opportunity to contribute to her blog.

I became cognizant of the cutting-edge classroom environment and the ways in which the students learn.  I noticed that the students were actively engaged in group discussions and eager to demonstrate their prior knowledge and experiences. Moreover, they were engaged in several inquiry centres, as this was reflected in their drawings and writings. I recall the memory of Joanne explaining the role of the environment as the third teacher. Evidently, this classroom environment revealed that it is the place to wonder, discover, and learn - this is the place to be!   
Hence, the students took pride in their work and were aspiring to express their creativity without receiving vague messages or instructions from posters or pre-made templates.

Conducting these inquiry-based learning opportunities was a beneficial learning experience for me as an aspiring educator because I learned to approach learning engagements differently. I am now able to see the limitations of explicit instruction, as I believe it limits students’ learning because they are not able to make their own discoveries; inquiry-based learning enables students to pose their own questions and embark on a journey of discovery. I learned the importance of documentation as I was writing my students’ thoughts and wonders. This allowed me to assess my students’ understanding of certain concepts. More importantly, the oral transcripts exposed my students’ wonders about science. My role as an educator is to facilitate discussion and not wholly direct the learning. For example, through discussion I was exposed to my students’ ideas and insights about rabbits. If my students had certain questions or wonders about the rabbit, another learning provocation would be introduced.  This was authentic learning at its best. 

When I first started my inquiry-based lessons, I struggled with time, thinking that I had to finish an investigation in one day. However, I realized that rushing investigations hinders the process of student learning. Thus, creating these lesson plans made me recognize that inquiry takes time and may exceed a normal class period. I ensured that my future inquiry-based approaches may take several days in order for my students to reflect and discuss their learning. Moreover, I found that the learning was flourishing because students took their time to express their questions and critical thinking through writing and drawing.  I thank my mentor teacher, Joanne, for exposing the importance of taking photos of students’ progress because it demonstrates the learning process. My mentor teacher also revealed that my emphasis was placed on a finished product instead of the students’ critical thinking that was used to complete their work.  I used to be focused solely on the student’s finished piece of artwork or writing without realizing that the process of creating reveals a student’s thought process. 

I had the opportunity to work at the Pet Rabbit Inquiry Centre with students that were fascinated and intrigued by the rabbit. They were eager to learn about the classroom pet rabbit named Hop. The students expressed their wonders about a rabbit’s life, and thus we embarked on a journey to learn about the life cycle of rabbits. We explored many fictional and non-fictional texts to observe the characteristics of rabbits through different life stages.  I utilized the SMART board to show images and videos of rabbits as they evolve from infancy up until 6 weeks of age.

My pet rabbit inquiry group presented their hard work and findings about the life cycle of a rabbit to their class. This presentation allowed them to share their knowledge with their classmates. My students felt a sense of accomplishment because they added detail to their work and were able to articulate their findings. They took pride in identifying themselves as ‘rabbit experts’. In essence, these experiences have led me to recognize that everyone in the classroom is a co-learner. I found myself not knowing the answers to the questions my students posed. By working together with my students, we approached questions in a positive and fun manner. I believe I considered my students’ interest and relationship with the classroom rabbit by building upon their ‘wonderings’ to serve as a foundation for further learning provocations.  

The students also formed connections with their classroom rabbit Hop.
L: When Hop was born, was she pink like that?
R: It is a kit, it has no fur!  Rabbits are wrinkly when they are kits!
R: Do kit’s have tails? No I don’t think they have tails.
S: Kits do have them!
R: Their tails are very wrinkly. I am going to make my kit’s tail wrinkly.  I can’t put googley eyes because kits can’t see!

This dialogue demonstrates that the students were actively engaged in discussing their wonders about rabbits and shared their prior knowledge, thus learning from one another. Each student decided that they would pick a stage of a rabbit’s life in order to write and draw about it.  Finally, they worked together to create a visual representation of a rabbit’s life cycle. After this life cycle was complete, the students had the opportunity to present their work to their classmates. This presentation epitomized the students’ hard work and dedication.

Another important moment from our Pet Rabbit Inquiry centre involves the students’ creation of a Pet Rabbit Store. This rabbit store enabled the students to make valuable connections to their real life experiences in stores and enhance their mathematics skills.

Here are the steps we took to create our rabbit store:

-Brainstorming potential store names to call our rabbit store
-Compiling a list of the names
-Creating tallies and asking our classmates to vote for a store name
-Brainstorming items that our rabbit store needs for selling and buying
-Exploring what receipts are, why they are needed, and finally creating our own store receipts
-Creating price lists of items in our store
-Creating signs for our store
-Creating a cash register for our store
-Creating coins and paper money
-Sorting our money for the cash register

I incorporated math through the creation of the Pet Rabbit Store by focusing on Canadian coins; their shape, value, and worth.  Students were able to form connections with the math they were learning by creating different types of money for their store’s cash register. They were able to identify different types of coins, as demonstrated by their sorting of the coins. 

L: We can separate each money to the holes or we can sort the money and pennies in the egg carts so it’s going to take most of the egg carts. We can put the coins in the egg carts and the paper money, not in the egg cart but just in the cash register.
Z: We can sort the coins, we can sort pennies in one, quarters in one hole, dimes and nickels in another hole.
L: We should put money in order, like pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, loonies.

The students continued to express their wonders about their rabbit and I strived to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences with them. I learned how to observe and implement inquiry-based learning in the classroom.  Inquiry based learning demonstrates how learning evolves from questions and wonderings in order to develop a deeper understanding of the world around us. Documentation was an essential tool that enabled me to record significant moments in my students’ learning. 

My experiences in Joanne and Julie's classroom enabled me to understand how children learn. In essence, these experiences allowed me to form a deeper connection with my students as we unified as learners. These children inevitably inspired me to continue to provide powerful learning engagements that I will be sure to implement in my career as a teacher.

Marietta just graduated from York University in June.  She most recently completed a student internship program at the Toronto District School Board where she shares, "This was an enriching experience, as it strengthened my skills as a teacher with regards to developing more learning opportunities for my future students. Essentially, I was responsible for creating versatile instructional materials for educational workshops and using technology to enhance the learning process. Needless to say I am excited for my lifelong, collaborative journey of learning and teaching!"

We wish Marietta Sofos all the very best of luck in her exciting future as an educator! 

Please take the time to leave Marietta a comment about this post.


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