Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unschooling and Observing Learning in An Unlikely Classroom

I have a confession to make, I am a reluctant unschooler.  Am I really too repressed to let go and allow authentic learning to happen without my careful orchestration of the environment and my controlled laid out scope and sequences of a thoughtfully constructed lesson plan?  I try and allow for unschooling elements or moments, but I have a hard time in letting go... allowing that authentic things to happen where a learner is in control of their own learning. I honestly do not trust the concept of unschooling and the concept of free range learning enough to let go of the edge of my own control of direction. I know "IT" happens, Authentic Learning. I also know chaos ensues and is part of the process. I see that it is good to let go and allow authentic learning too just happen but I am nervous  to let it.  Some of it is about my ego and my dog and pony show, some of it is about the chaos and mess of letting kids go feral causes me to have to clean up. Controlling from behind the curtain is my forte.  I do create a wonderful environment to learn and create from.  I am good at setting that stage. I had yet to just let go other than staging these little maker movements and stepping back during my orchestrated lessons is never hard for me, but allowing a learner to do what ever he wants and all that, that implies is uncomfortable to me.
Recently I have been taking courses online and my carefully planned year of subject units outlined at the beginning of the year has fallen by the wayside. It has allowed for more unschooling moments.
 I have been teaching biology and geology this year.  Earth science had its own agenda this semester with the perfect Arizona winter days my son gravitated to outdoor activities and began digging a hole in the dirt in our back yard.. While I taught Conor astro biology of Mars lessons along with studying extremophiles life forms( Link to free nomenclature cards and MARS Ed Lessons ) and the five kingdoms work of Montessori he had his own idea about applications. He read nomenclature cards of the five kingdoms, the NASA cards on Extremeophiles and used the new information to created and idea for a submersible spherical robots on paper. This robots is a camera drone for the methane lakes of the moon Titan. We have been writing story boards this year and from digging and finding rollie-pollie bugs in the dirt he created several conceptual storyline ideas for Dr. Who episodes with characters created by ideas found in dirt.
Concept of a spherical subversive robot with cameras to probe the methane lakes under the frozen ice of the Moon of Titan.

Board Game and Cards for Mars game called ASTORBIOBOUND

The link above is invaluable for finding STEAM's lessons

"Digging in"  The Arizona soil looks Martian
Studying Fossils
Examining each fossil and looking it up by label.  He classified them by geography and by chronological order on the timeline
Timeline of Life on Earth and Fossils
Filling up the hole with water.

Making Mud
So what happens when I let go of the lesson plan and just let my son go.  He created a project and it turned out to be all about earth science and biology.  From the dirt piles Conor made mud and then began flinging it on the wall.  We had a lot of fun and got dirty then we began to play with designing landscapes with mud using the wall as a canvas and observing how the mud dried and cracked.  We added layers upon layers to create ridges and mountains making a model of a biosphere surface out of our materials.  The wall art showed me some interesting information for my own studies in geology and the the history of the Earth and Mars. We can easily see with real soil models how chemical reactions  and erosion happen.  We learned what is predictable, what is possible in outcomes, what other experiences can we pull from and out of all this knowledge and our experiences and how to form a working and authentic hypothesis and practical experience for problem solving.  For example what to do with the all dirt was solved by creating models of Mars on the cinder block walls and making mud sculptures.  Lots of natural learning from playing in the mud. I did some more reinforcements with my Montessori nomenclature cards on Prokaryotaes and Portista examples.  This 5 Kingdom Charts and Cards gives some great information.
                                             here for 5 Kingdoms charts and nomenclature.
Montessori Nomenclature and Chart work
The art of making a model
Crater forming
Conor experiments with the Archetype of the Spiral
The mud hole 24 hours after flooding it. 
All kinds of observable occurrences and wonder happening.

So Conor's work keeps evolving and the hole may become a cave or a lab.

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