Discovering the World’s Cultural Heritage
The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery
Mark Van Doren
Curiosity is the spark that helps us learn and grow, enticing us to move forward a bit more, to discover the world around us. Being given an opportunity to investigate things that are important to us is a powerful motivator. Interest based inquiry must be part of the landscape in our classrooms. Furthermore, students’ choice and voice are essential for motivation.
For many students research is something you do when you google it or use a book. However, we can research by doing, experimenting, observing, interviewing and viewing. We need to keep the concept of research broader and value a range of methodologies.
This is why, when we started planning the activities for this unit we realised that it was important for our students to be exposed to its contents in a different way. It was not enough to ask them to carry out some research on the different cities Felix visited, we wanted to ignite their desire to learn and know more. Consequently, every time Felix arrived to a new city, the activities to learn about new places were driven by the children’s initiative.
They brought themed Legos, shared family traditions, met people from around the world, listened to typical music, explored interactive maps…they even planned family trips inspired by what they were learning in class. We as teachers provided the tools and processes, feedback and questions that maintained their engagement.
Integrating technology into classroom instruction is a must when we plan our units.However, it is essential to choose the most suitable tools according to age and topic from the myriad resources of the online world.
Bearing this in mind, we selected Google maps to travel from country to country and zoom into each city Felix visited. Students were surprised by the fact of “dropping a little man” with the Street View Tool and felt like they were standing right next to the Eiffel Tower or the Great Pyramids of Giza.We pretended to be tourists visiting the Louvre Museum when we took the Virtual Museum Tour and observed very famous works of art. Furthemore, students discovered how useful an Interactive Map can be when you need to find a toilet in such a big place like the Central Park in New York.
Interacting with People Around the World
Much of children’s knowledge is derived not only from their direct experiences with the environment, but also from the input of others. Consequently, we thought it was important for our students to reach out to the different cultures around the world by others sharing their traditions with them. Furthermore, the children instinctively were driven to share their own families’ legacies.
One of the Year 2 students enthusiastically proposed to invite her Czech grandfather to share his Czechoslovakian inheritance. Other students suggested to contact a former classmate who now lives in Nairobi. They first contacted him by e-mail and later had a Skype conference, where he shared his personal experience of living in such a distant country. We even enjoyed the visit of Australian interchange students from the John Paul College who taught us how to cook a typical Australian dessert!
Sharing Cultural Legacy
Taking advantage of the fact that our students belong to a community that is able to travel abroad, we encouraged them to share souvenirs brought from their family trips just like Felix did in the story, allowing them to take an active role in their learning process. In addition to this, we listened to typical music and watched documentaries on different countries.
…Y2 students reach out beyond the academic experience.