“Well, that was a fail.”  Kristen Falk and I both looked at each other and spoke these words at the end of November.  We’d just spent an afternoon exploring African artifacts, photos and videos of various African countries and cultural expressions.  After the exploration, we gathered her grade 2s in a circle and listened to hear what they were interested in and what direction the learning might take us.  Her grade 2s, it seemed, weren’t curious or interested in any of the things we hoped they might be.  There were no wonderings or curiosities about animals, African people, food, or culture.  Our hope was to hook them with one of these topics and then move into learning related to equity and diversity.

The children had shown some interest in maps and a galimoto toy so Kristen spent a few days exploring maps and watching videos of African toy makers to see if any momentum or curiosity would come out of any of those ideas.  Neither of these provocations tweaked any interest.  Kristen and I decided that a massive pivot was necessary.  Because the children had shown interest in how the galimoto toy was made, we set aside Africa and moved in the direction of toy making.  We saw opportunities to explore equity through this topic as well.  With Christmas approaching, and toys in the minds of children, we decided to use Mantle of the Expert, a dramatic inquiry pedagogical approach, to see if the children might be interested in creating a toy store in her classroom.  The students jumped into the learning without hesitation.  In fact, Kristen and I found it difficult to control and manage the enthusiasm in our carpet circle discussions.

Some take aways:

  • It’s much easier containing excited, engaged learners than off-task, disruptive, disengaged learners.
  • It’s ok to scrap something that’s not working or something the children don’t care about.
  • Learners who care about what they are studying are more independent and self propelled as learners.
  • There are many topics that get at the same curricular goals.  It’s up to me, to find the one the children care about.
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