Thursday, 15 March 2012

Critical thinking in the garden

Student teachers leading a lesson in the garden

Although the wind was bone-chilling, it was a pleasure to spend the afternoon in the garden with Nora Timmerman and her teacher education students in EDST 454, Critical Thinking: Frameworks, Methods, and Challenges.

Two groups led critical thinking activities in the garden for children from Kindergarten to Grade 3. The first group used "I wonder...?" questions to explore colours in the garden, and the second group used inquiry-based learning to ask open-ended questions to discover "what stories is the garden is telling us?" The outdoor activities ended after planting radishes in the Chinese Market Garden.

Huddled in the Agora to warm up, rich discussions and reflections followed the activities. We discussed rules for being in the garden: Should they emerge during the activity? Be student-generated? How to instil respect for the garden? We discussed inquiry: How can a teacher resist directly answering inquiry questions? What is the role of an expert? Is it overwhelming or motivating to discover that there is so much we don't know? We discussed the pedagogy of landscape: Can plants teach or are the stories in a garden purely human?

As one student said, "All these questions, they inspire me to go home and do research. Like, so how did humans decide what is safe to eat or not?"
Fascinating conversations with a wonderful group of committed and inquiring student teachers.

What are these flowers? They taste sweet, like broccoli.

What's this plant? It smells like onions. Can we eat it?

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