Let’s start with a Missouri Learning Standard:
Social Studies Grade Level Expectations
Idea: Elements of Geographical Study and Analysis
Concept: Knowledge of major elements of geographical study and analysis (such as location, place, movement and regions) and their relationship to changes in society and the environment
Skills: Reading and constructing maps.
Understanding the concept of location to make predictions and solve problems.
Source: Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Can this standard can be practiced, measured and achieved in an outdoor setting with students involved in the planning and implementation? Take a look at this recent lesson at Mark Twain Elementary School, Brentwood:
Overview: Students will use a compass to navigate an outdoor space. They will keep track of their path and landmarks (as a group) by taking notes about the directions they traveled and the landmarks they saw along the way. Afterward, students will create a map including the regions, landmarks, and the route traveled. Their maps will include a title and key/legend.
- With your group, keep track of the route you traveled using cardinal directions, if possible.
- In the notebook, take turns recording your path and the sites you see along the way (landmarks, landforms, bodies of water, noteable plants and animals, etc.
- Stop at three or four landmarks ans take a photo of what you see.
- Return to the starting point.
Back inside, create a map of your route. Include:
- a title
- a key/legend
- a compass rose
- your route
- the photos
This lesson is a good example of Foxfire Core Practice 3:
The academic integrity of the work teachers and learners do together is clear.
Mandated skills and learning expectations are identified to the class. Through collaborative planning and implementation, students engage and accomplish the mandates. In addition, activities assist learners in discovering the value and potential of the curricula and its connections to other disciplines. (Starnes and Carone, 2006)*
Not only have students demonstrated their use of a compass, constructing maps and understanding the idea of location, they are developing new skills and stretching their experience and understanding. In other words, this is a serious and rigorous lesson that will benefit the students – not only in their academic lives, but in any situation that requires creative problem solving and collaboration. Real life skills! The fact that it is also an exciting adventure is a fortunate by-product enhanced by the outdoor setting. Academic integrity not only justifies the learning experience in the eyes of the policy-makers, it provides substantial and long-lasting benefit to the learners. And the teacher has done his job.
* The above Foxfire quote is found on page 34 of From Thinking to Doing: The Foxfire Core Practices by Bobby Ann Starnes and Angela Carone, with Cynthia Paris (2006, The Foxfire Fund, Inc.)