Thursday, 14 June 2018

Understanding History Through Artifacts

Providing an authentic learning context for students is one way to deepen student engagement. A recent Grade 7 History class was a good example of this approach to learning. 
 
By examining artifacts like rebillion boxes, students can gain a deeper understanding of the reasons behind the rebellion.
 
In Grade 7 History, students learn about the Rebellion of 1837. One of our teachers shared the story about a relative of his wife who marched with the rebels and was imprisoned for taking part in the rebellion. While in prison, the prisoners made small boxes from firewood. As a means of telling their story and maintaining their spirits, the prisoners carved messages into the boxes. Many of these boxes were smuggled out of prison and given to family members, and some still exist, like the one referenced by our teacher.
 
Students created their own rebellion boxes out of construction paper

With this story as a context for the lesson, the students worked in small groups to identify patterns within a sampling of messages inscribed in the boxes. Doing so helped the students understand the reasons behind the rebellion, as well as the depth of contempt for the Family Compact.
 
Students looked at examples of rebellion boxes
 
Using construction paper, students worked individually to create their own rebellion box, which served as a creative and hands-on way to express their understanding of the causes of the Rebellion of 1837.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Tapping Into Problem-Based Learning

Problem based learning (PBL) is a student-centred approach that gives students experience with solving open-ended problems. This approach to learning encourages teamwork, the use of trial and error and critical thinking, all of which are vital skills for students to acquire in high school.  
 
 
A great example of this teaching method was used recently in our Grade 8 science classes. As part of a unit on simple machines and the study of levers, students worked in teams to design and build a Trebuchet. A trebuchet is a medieval siege weapon designed to throw projectiles long distances. A key element of this design involves using a beam, hinged at a pivot point to launch a projectile.
 
 

 
Students began the task by making a prototype and used it to experiment with the ideal ratios of the beam, pivot and counterweight to develop their final design. Students used materials such as doweling, straws and plastic spoons to build their final prototype. They used their machine to calculate mechanical advantage and work. A written reflection on what they had learned through the process was also completed.
 

 
As a concluding activity, students competed against one another to determine which trebuchet could fling a mini-marshmallow the furthest distance. Knowing the inquiry ended with this type of competition really motivated students to build the most effective trebuchet.  

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

CSI Meets Newton's Law of Cooling

Creating scenarios that allow students to use skills and knowledge to solve real world problems is a great way to make learning stick. Our Advanced Functions (MHF4U) class did this recently through an activity where they played the role of detectives examining a crime scene.

Students worked in teams to solve the puzzles
Students were divided into three teams, assembled in one of our breakout rooms and given a puzzle to solve in three stages. In the first stage, students worked together to use prior knowledge to solve a series of exponential and logarithmic functions. Once they had these answers, they used them and Newton’s Law of Cooling to determine the time of death of the body found at the crime scene.
 
The timer counting down added excitement to the activity
With the correct time in hand, three members of the team escaped from the breakout room to find a website URL that had been hidden in the classroom. Once the site was located, the remainder of the team left the breakout room and together the team used graphing software to create a function that reflected the function related to the time of death.
Each team worked in a separate breakout room
Rich performance tasks like this one enable students to develop valuable critical thinking and problem solving skills, and learn how to work effectively in teams, all of which are vital skills for the future.