Inquiry-Based (God) Learning

Perhaps contrary to our personal experiences with students, they actually want to learn and have burning questions about the world around them. Not all of them are appropriate for school, nor do they often come at appropriate times (if you’ve ever taught in a middle school you know exactly what I’m talking about). Yet, all too often we, as teachers, don’t take advantage of this innate curiosity. It isn’t entirely all our fault though, we have standards to teach; a curriculum to follow handed to us from our department or school. And if I’m being honest, it can be really hard to develop student-led learning activities. (Fun fact: Yesterday I tried to implement a scavenger hunt for my students to learn how to navigate. It did not go well. Back to the drawing board).

The deck can potentially be stacked against us before we even begin. However, when we create or more specifically, let students create their own learning opportunities we can see a great buy-in to the material that textbooks and Powerpoint slides can never replicate. Social Studies (along with science) are so primed for students to create their own questions. It can work with almost any subject in social studies. The scenarios and counterfactuals that our long, sordid, complex history of humanity contain are almost endless. Perhaps your class is very interested in the Romans and their conquest. Students can develop questions for their success, their eventual failure or what other empires could’ve done to defend themselves.

Perhaps the American Revolution has them enamored. Naturally, they are going to have questions about why the founding fathers made the choices they did. Our students may wonder how they would react if they were creating a constitution? What factors or issues would they value or find most important? How would they govern? This semi-guided example is just one of many that any US history teacher could implement.

A truly open-ended inquiry is also possible but a little more difficult. Problems and scenarios exist for this to thrive (in the right classroom) as well though. A world history or global studies class can allow it’s students to examine a conflict or disagreement between countries and start problem-solving. This could be something long-standing and a little controversial (Israel-Palestine) or long resolved (Russia-Japan). They can also look to the future and predict what issues they might encounter when they are adults. What will countries look like? Borders? The economy? These are all problems that directly or will directly affect them. And if it directly impacts them, there is a higher likelihood that they will not only care about the issue but actively work towards solving them.

Below is my Wonder Day Question project in full but first my TL;DR version.

I love space. If I could somehow cryogenically freeze myself so that I could live 500 years into the future and see (hopefully) fully developed space travel, I don’t think I couldn’t choose that. That’s how much I love the idea of traveling in space. Imagining what could be out there and what awaits us as a species is humbling and awesome. And I mean awesome in the way where it leaves you in awe. Stunned at the sheer magnitude of what you are witnessing.

Alas, I will never know that feeling. While that undoubtedly bums me out, it also means that I must support the small stepping stones to eventually reach that point. Sure there are some interesting colonialism ties to my field of teaching and exploration is a large part of social studies but the science-y parts are what really motivate and propel my interest in space. There is always something to wonder about our universe. What is Dark Matter and Energy? Can we ever travel at FTL speeds? Could we ever make a warm hole? Will we ever find non-human intelligent life forms? And if so, could we ever possibly hope to communicate with them? Or would it be like us trying to communicate with a fish? (can human beings and fish co-exist peacefully!?)

Needless to say, there will never be questions about the universe that don’t need answering and until I turn back into the space dust I once was. It will endlessly fascinate me.

analysis blackboard board bubble
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wonder Day Question:

 

I wonder how long it will be until there is a manned mission to Mars?

-What systems and/or technology need to be in place for a mission to take place?

-How feasible is the mission?

-What are the risks involved with such an undertaking?

-What is there to be gained from traveling to Mars?

 

Research:

 

Finding information about humanity’s latest and next big step in space exploration is easy and plentiful, which is great if you’re a big space fan like me. However, as with all things dealing with science, there is an abundant amount of inaccurate or misleading information.

 

Answering the overall question is a somewhat known quantity because technology will always improve and given enough time, humanity will solve the big problems with prolonged space travel and perhaps even colonization of other planets and moons. But to find out if it can happen in my lifetime is the more pressing question.

 

-What systems and/or technology need to be in place for a mission to take place?

According to NASA’s website, they’ve been developing a new Space Launch System (SLS) and new spacecraft named Orion for “deep space exploration”. Along with a Solar Electric Propulsion system to transport needed to transport cargo to Mars for manned missions. (Daines, 2017)

 

-What are the risks involved with such an undertaking?

There are numerous dangers involved in space travel for humans. Turns out, space is very inhospitable to life. Aside from the ever present risk of death from exposure to the cold vacuum of space. Astronauts will have to deal with the harsh environment of Mars with large sandstorms and little atmosphere to block harmful radiation. Long term space travel also affects the body of astronauts as the gravity or lack thereof has adverse effects on bone density, metabolic rates, and cardiovascular systems. (Whiting, 2018)

 

-How feasible is the mission?

Cost is a massive issue that is currently holding up major progress in launching a manned mission. NASA’s budget has remained “essentially flat for the past decade”. (Whitwam, 2017)

 

The private sector has picked up some of the slack but launching rockets into space is a costly and difficult endeavor. SpaceX has had success with Falcon 9 reusable rockets tests on Earth but landing on Mars is much more difficult with its lack of atmosphere and extreme weather. (Whitwam 2017)

 

-What is there to be gained from traveling to Mars?

The knowledge alone of our celestial neighbors would be reward enough to many but the sheer access to resources and development of new, better technologies should be enough to entice most people. The sheer amount of technological innovations that have improved daily life and were founded due to NASA programs is vast. From LED lights to improved tires and fire-resistant materials, the technological impact has been extraordinary. (Spinoff, 2018)

 

Sources Cited:

 

Daines, G. (2017, August 6). NASA’s Journey to Mars.

Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/content/nasas-journey-to-mars

 

Whiting, M., Abadie, L. (2018, September 10). 5 Hazards of Human Spaceflight

Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/5-hazards-of-human-spaceflight

 

Whitwam, R. (2017, July, 17) NASA Now Says Unmanned Mars Mission in 2030s Is Unlikely.

Retrieved from https://www.extremetech.com/extreme/252461-nasa-now-says-manned-mars-mission-2030s-unlikely

 

NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives. (2008. Para 1, 7, 10)

Retrieved from https://spinoff.nasa.gov/Spinoff2008/tech_benefits.html

 

The name and its origins

For those of you too young to remember the 2000 Presidential election. The future 43rd President of the United States of America was in a tough fight to secure his parties nomination. The recently departed (as of this writing) Sen. John McCain gave Bush everything he could before ultimately sealing up the nomination. The campaigning between the two camps was exceptionally dirty and cutthroat.

In an effort to unify the party behind one candidate for the general election, both men met and held a press conference to assure the public that there was no bad blood between the two.

After the meeting and conference, Bush then governor of Texas told the reporters that the conversation was, “very cordial, very frank, very open.” He later added, “I think we agree, the past is over.”

And thus one of the very first Bush-isms was born.

Lastly, a poem created exclusively via Bush-isms for your enjoyment. As reportedly compiled by Washington Post writer Richard Thompson.

MAKE THE PIE HIGHER
by George W. Bush

I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still a dangerous world.
It’s a world of madmen and uncertainty
and potential mental losses.

Rarely is the question asked
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the Internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?

They misunderestimate me.
I am a pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can coexist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.

Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanize society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!

Hello

My students today will take their pre-assessment in Global Studies. They are freshman (with few exceptions) and the material they’re covering really makes me understand how little they know in the grand scheme of things. It has been so long since I have gone over this material as a student that I forget how much of it is just “common knowledge”.

This fact is a great reminder that everyone is coming in with different understandings and background information. It is incredible easy for me to forget that many of these kids haven’t had exposure to some of the concepts we’ll be covering. But more than that it gives me ideas for different projects and assignments that I might be able to come up with. Of course, the big caveat is that I need to collaborate with the other global teachers and new things always seem to meet some resistance.

Still, I can’t imagine how boring a modern 14-year-old would find a latitude/longitude lecture. That is not to mention the awful geography concepts video that this department insists on showing. It is from the 80’s and it has terrible audio and outdated presentation. I don’t think it’s quite the “badge of honor” that the department thinks it is. Traditions are funny like that. To the outsider, they seem strange but to the participant, normal.

Having been a substitute for so long before having my own class, I normally used my prep periods to enjoy a good book or catch up on twitter and even a few times play some Zelda. While I’m certain I will catch up on tasks eventually, I know that for the foreseeable future I’ll be busy every prep.

Today I get to plot coordinates around the school for students to use to map locations. But we can’t go outside, at least not in the broader sense. I remember doing something similar to this when I was in school and we walked around with a GPS (which was brand-spanking new back then) to navigate to designated places. It was fun and we felt like we learned something. Some creative problem solving is going to be needed to solve this problem as we’ll be lucky to get a change of a couple of seconds, much less minutes. It doesn’t seem that long ago but the change has come rapidly and there is no going back. Only forward. The past is definitively over.