Previously I mentioned we were trying out the topic of real versus pretend. We spent time exploring what makes something or someone real and conversely what makes something pretend. This exploration is important in the process of beginning a project. The focusing activities provide common experiences for the class and allow the children to build a shared perspective.
That being said, my job is to decide if it would be appropriate to continue the project. I was anticipating the real versus pretend concept could be applied to robots, real robots being used, for instance, by NASA and pretend robots like transformers. I thought it would be interesting to create some sort of simple robot as a culminating project. The Young Investigators planning guide lays out several questions to think about when determining whether to delve deeper into a project and here they are...
Is it a topic that
__ Is more concrete than abstract?
__ Involves an abundance of first-hand, direct experiences and real objects that young investigators can manipulate?
__ Is easily related to their prior experiences?
__Has related sites nearby that can be conveniently visited and even revisited?
__ Young children can research with minimal assistance from adults? Can it be researched without relying only on secondarysources like books, internet or video?
__ Children can represent what they know and learn by using skills and techniques appropriate for their age?
Is culturally relevant to the children and their families?
I wasn't convinced that the potential robot project would meet several of these needs. The talk and artwork about robots all but vanished as well and in it's place came a great deal of talk about dinosaurs. During our two weeks of exploring the world of real and pretend the topic of dinosaurs was discussed nearly every day by children. The children most inetersted in all things dinosaurs are also children learning English this year. For this reason I really want to show them that I hear them and value their interests.
That being said a study of dinosaurs is definitely more abstract than concrete. In fact many of the questions to think about when planning a project would be answered in the negative - no a dinosaur project would not be ideal for in depth inquiry. I can not bring first hand materials into the classroom and we would be reliant on secondary sources to gain understanding.
Weighing the pros and cons I feel that language production is one of the primary needs of the class. As many children are just beginning to use expressive language in English it would be beneficial to engage in a study of interest to increase their motivation to speak. We may begin with the idea of dinosaurs but as I was reminded by a professor last night there are modern day relatives of dinosaurs that could be used as further inquiry and available for first-hand experiences. We'll see where it all leads - but I will be trying to balance the known interest with the potential for deeper inquiry.