Who said it? Do you remember?
A young, curly-haired boy followed with, “Please let this be a normal field trip.” Then the rest of the class cheered and replied “With the Friz, no way!” Not long after, Little Richie piped in with the memorable and catchy theme song to The Magic School Bus. In every episode, those fictitious students climbed aboard a bus not knowing where they would end up or what they would learn. Ms. Frizzle gifted them with interactive and eye-widening learning experiences.
The last time I checked, the local dealership did not have magic school buses on their lot, but I do know that the iPads and Android phones that my students carry in their backpacks or the outdated computers in the lab that have access to dependable Internet grant a magic school bus-type experience for learning. Exit magic school bus, enter Google Earth. Instead of hopping aboard a bus to explore an Aztec Temple, zoom to the moon or swim through the ocean, my students in room 213 at Southwood Park Public School in Ajax can sit at their desks and explore an Aztec Temple using Street View, pan across the moon with their mouse cursor and literally dive 11,000 metres down into the Pacific Rim. Want to know what the coolest part of these activities is? The Ontario Social Studies/History/Geography curriculum offers potential connections to Google Earth on nearly every page of the 212-page document. The four corners of the globe instantly become accessible.
Seeing The Bigger Picture
I didn’t fall in love with history until my first year at university where I took my first history course about Western civilization. It was then I became captivated by the stories. In university, I learned to see the discipline of history as holistic and organic. Ontario teachers can teach that Cabot came to Canada first, then Cartier, and then Champlain and have students memorize the order and the dates so they’re ready for a test. But what if we saw the story-like bigger picture; Cabot was the first modern explorer (after the Vikings) to find untapped resources, and since he sailed for England, France and Spain were left behind in the 1500s’ equivalent of the space race. Instead of asking for the order of their journeys, ask students why they followed each other. A mindful big picture is more meaningful than dates alone.
So Why Inquiry?
One dictionary defines inquiry as “an act of seeking information by questioning, interrogating or investigating.” There’s something special about a question, isn’t there? Whether it comes from a textbook or a student, questions enrich learning. Here’s an example: Expectation A3.3 in Grade 5 asks students to examine the