In my last blog post, I let you know about the most recent plushy addition to our classroom. Since that time, each child in the class has had a chance to take Peggy home to introduce it to their families. My hope here was for each child to build a strong attachment to Peggy, so as to generate more interest and understanding in the photos I take while I am away (an idea inspired by my wonderful fellow Fellow Greg Gaiera). It was also a chance for me to better understand their preconceptions, questions, and curiosities about Antarctica and my upcoming expedition.
I've had a chance now to read through this homework that the children completed with their families, and have found a number of entry points for inquiry. These ideas will guide my own learning, so that I can bring information back to the classroom that the children will be inspired to learn about.
Some common themes in the children's responses were:
- The megafauna of Antarctica
- "I think Ellie will see a chin strap penguin."
- "I think penguins are good swimmers."
- "I wonder if there are whales."
- "I wonder how long it takes for the egg to hatch."
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will see a killer whale."
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will see a seal."
- Structures and human experiences in Antarctica
- "I wonder if there are igloos there."
- "I wonder what Ellie will eat. Peggy will eat fish."
- "I wonder how people don't die because of the cold."
- "I wonder where the people live and how people stay warm."
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will make igloos in the snow. I hope that they could have a snowball fight."
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will swim in the cold water."
- Weather and climate
- "I think it's really cold."
- "I think Antarctica is snowy."
- "I wonder if the snow is melting."
- "I wonder if it will be cold or warmish."
- "I wonder what the degrees is in Antarctica."
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will find out if it will be cold."
Also exciting to read about are my students' misconceptions! Analyzing misconceptions can be incredibly eye-opening about their current understandings and how to guide their learning.
Some common misconceptions in the children's responses were:
- Confusion between the two poles
- "I hope that Ellie and Peggy will have a good time at the Arctic."
- "I wonder if the penguins see Santa when he is in the sky."
- "I hope that they will see a polar bear and a penguin."
- Confusion about which species live in Antarctica
- "I wonder if Ellie will see a lion seal."
- "I wonder if Ellie will get bit by a shark. I hope she stays safe."
- "I hope Ellie and Peggy will go diving and see sharks and jellyfish."
So, how do I plan to use these ideas and questions to guide my own learning? Needless to say, one of my big jobs will be to take lots of photographs so that my students can see what I saw there. Some of these I will be able to post right away while I am there, and others I will share with them upon my return.
I can also begin to plan how I will interact with my class through social media while I am away, and how this can support learning happening in the classroom. For example, one of the things we do each day at school is measure the temperature with a thermometer and record this data in a monthly line graph. While I am on the National Geographic Explorer, I can tweet what the temperature is from the ship each day, and the students can add this as separate data on our December Temperature graph. Will it be very different or very similar to the temperature back at school? Why or why not? If we compared Toronto's and Antarctica's temperatures again in June, would our data look the same?
I am also beginning to plan what on-board experiences to participate in, and how to make use of the ship's tools, to provide further provocations. Can I work up the nerve to do a polar plunge? Will the ice conditions be good enough for us to visit the southernmost post office or one of the research stations? Could I tag along with the underwater video specialist on an outing with a ROV? Might I be able to get a recording of the sounds from one of the underwater hydrophones?
With less than a month to go until my departure, these thoughts are clouding my brain, along with packing lists, supply teacher plans, and constantly double- and triple-checking that my passport hasn't expired. So if you see me within the next month and I seem a little bit preoccupied, rest assured: it's not you, it's the penguins. 😉