Friday, 5 October 2012

EDUC 450B Inquiry One class in the Orchard Garden

We held our Inquiry One Secondary Math and Physics class in the Orchard Garden on the morning of September 20. Twenty-six student teachers and  Ozlem and Lindsey, our grad student teaching assistants, had an introduction and tour of the Garden, then explored the nature of lines and angles in human made and non- human made things in the garden, using charcoal sketches as our medium of inquiry.

It soon became clear that human made objects very often follow straight line and right angle patterns, while growing things very seldom do.

We discussed straight lines and right angles where

We discussed straight lines and right angles as they occur in nature and in our own bodies -- arms held out at 90 degrees from the body, gravitational force perpendicular to the surface of the earth, cubic salt crystals, straight-grained linear conifer trees, the east-west turning of the earth and the orthogonal north-south axis -- and talked about alternative geometries to think and act with, as seen in the growth patterns of plants. As a follow-up, the students read this article, Ancestral genres of mathematical graphs, and continued the discussion through class blogs.

We also learned and sang a traditional English song about the agricultural year, had our snack break in the garden, and helped harvest kale and radishes for the CSA boxes. Students commented that it was a new experience to have a mathematics field trip to a school garden, and that they felt very alert and attentive, moving around outside in the fresh air of the garden (even though it was an 8AM class!)

 Many students noted that they had never paid attention to the geometry of plants before; that everything seemed fresh, new and worth learning in the garden; and that they would like to try similar field trips with their own classes when they start teaching. They also commented that it will be important to plan lessons carefully, with a clear focus, so that students don't become too distracted in the garden; that students would need to learn not to damage the plants; and that students would learn about life, the growing of food and environmental sustainability at the same time that they were learning mathematics.

Some of the students have come back to the Orchard Garden as volunteers or simply as a quiet place for study since our field trip.

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