For the past couple of weeks my classes have been muddying the waters as they study the ways land (soil) and water interact together. Using a dirt-filled plastic tote with a hole in the corner, they each set up a variety of situations- each with a messy potential, I mean, a messy attraction. At about the same time we discussed vocabulary that included “meander,” “tributary,” “deposition,” and “delta.”
We are learning out-write that experiencing new concepts, rules and relationships are learned in tandem with the vocabulary used to identify the concepts. Sometimes the experience comes first, while other times the words and definitions lead the way. I have found that two important aspect of this learning combination is that the students need to realize that concepts and raw information such as vocabulary are learned differently, and, secondly, that these two ways of learning work best when addressed in succession- not really at the same time, but one after the other.
After mucking around long enough to recognize how water percolates and how run off changes the topography, we went to the GeoGlossary map in the GeoSkills program we have available on our computer network. There we connected and noted key vocabulary while we discussed the way the words matched our messy classroom experience.
The following day we took watercolor paint to paper to represent the concepts we have learned. I uploaded representative student sample paintings to a Voice Thread at >> http://voicethread.com/share/1111445/ . Watch as the students add detailed comments to the voice thread about what is going on, scientifically speaking, in the river scenes. The students are in the process of setting up Gaggle accounts to complete the task.