A Whole Earth Inquiry

Cross posted from KC class blog

In our classroom area we have several different globes, a large world map and a big book atlas. We refer to these regularly during day to day discussions about story settings, current affairs, absent family and friends and, increasingly, our class on-line learning network.

Recently I have observed groups of children crowded around the globe, looking for countries to which they have a personal connection. Trenton tells a group of children that he was born in Seattle and reminds them that Ryan was moving to Seattle before he moved to Ireland. Walter moved from Denmark. Hal has visited Hawaii. So has Leander. Maya’s grandparents visited from Canada. That’s where our KinderPals are from. Daan is trying to find where his last school was, but he can’t remember the name (Qatar). Soon he is moving again to India. The children are interested in finding India to see how close it is to the equator. Nikhil is worried that Daan will be too hot. The conversation goes on and on, carrying over days.

I introduced the children to Google Earth earlier in the year as a tool for finding out more about our KinderPals in Canada. At the time we were conducting a class inquiry into how we share the limited resource of space. Through Google Earth the children were able to see how much more densely populated our school neighborhood in Yokohama, Japan is compared to KinderPals in BC, Canada. Since then the children haven’t shown a particular interest in exploring Google Earth further. However, as I listen to the reoccurring conversations over the last few weeks, it occurs to me that the app might help support and extend the children’s current, unplanned inquiry into where on the earth they are.

I wonder what provocation I can offer the children. Earlier in the year we read a book called Lulie the Iceberg written by Princess Hisako Takamodo of Japan and illustrated by Warabe Aska. The story tells of the adventures of a young iceberg that breaks off the Greenland ice sheet and follows the oceans’ currents across the equator all the way to the antarctic. (Hence Nikhil’s concern about India’s proximity to the equator.) The children were enchanted by the story which I read aloud in daily installments over two weeks. We could have finished the story more quickly but the children were fascinated by the characters and plot and had many text-to-text, text-to-self and text-to-world connections they wanted to share as the story unfolded.

It occurs to me that this perhaps this book, to which the children have made such strong connections, might provide a structure to the children’s spontaneous inquiry. I invite the children to see if they can find the poles on Google Earth and then trace Lulie’s journey. I hope that the poles will provide an easy reference point as the children experiment with the orientation and zoom features on the the Google Earth app. I expect that not all children will want to conduct their inquiry using the iPads and I provide a selection of globes, atlases and a large world map. Then I sit back and watch, ready to support if needed, but otherwise letting the children explore and find out by themselves.

Some children are absorbed in the landscape of our planet, noting the frozen poles, commenting on the amount of water and discovering mountainous areas.

Others are more interested in finding countries that have a personal significance. Someone discovers the street view function and the children marvel at the detail.

Yet others are absorbed in looking at an atlas.

A few children decide to record their ideas on paper. I am fascinated by their careful, intricate drawings.

The children collaborate and work together, switching between the iPad app, globes, map and atlas. They share findings, dispute ideas, test theories and co-construct their understandings, revising their schemas in the light of new information.

It’s time to pack up. As the children tidy, a snippet of conversation floats over to me:

  • Trenton We did a whole earth inquiry!
  • Hal Now we know everything about the earth!
  • Nikhil But we can still learn more.
  • Daan Yeah, we can always learn more.

7 thoughts on “A Whole Earth Inquiry

  1. What a wonderful post! Our schools are hundreds of miles away but our students share the same thirst for knowledge, the same eagerness to “travel” through our connections to other classes of the world. Thanks for putting my feelings to worlds!

    • I find it amazing how this generation of children is growing up unconfined by the walls of their classroom. These five and six year olds made connections with children on the other side of the world with such ease. So different from my own Kindergarten experience, many, many moons ago!

  2. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post. The kids looked liked they were so engaged with the wonderful variety of resources that they were able to use. I really loved the way the girls were drawing their pictures of the world with such attention to detail. I need to look at google earth to use in the classroom, I liked how you used it with iPads.

    • I am wondering if my current group of children will develop an interest for google Earth. With the last group, this was the perfect opportunity. I shall wait and see if a window of opportunity arises with this group. I find it is so much more powerful to introduce a tool in response to a particular student interest or inquiry. Let’s see what happens!

  3. This is incredible! I am so excited to share this project with our school. Are any of your teacher contributors on twitter? I just followed the 2 co-founders, but I would love to follow your other contributing teachers. If there is anyway to email me or post their twitter accounts, I would really appreciate it:). I am at kidworldcitizen and I am very interested in global education (#globaled). Thanks! Keep posting- this is so awesome!

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