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The Anatomy of an Expedition | Part 3

The Anatomy of an Expedition | Part 3
Posted on 02/06/2018
kids field tripBy Kathy Greeley, Literacy Coach

There are several important parts to an expedition:
  • the connection to curriculum standards and key learning targets,
  • essential questions that challenge students to think,
  • a well-planned launch that hooks students’ interest and builds their background knowledge, and
  • case studies which allow a class to delve deeply into a topic and develop real expertise.
Speaking of expertise, another key component of expeditions is working with experts from our community. For example, when first graders were learning about vertebrates in our neighborhood, Fresh Pond’s Ranger Jean came to share her experience and deep knowledge about the reservoir and the animals that live there. During their study called “Eat Food, Mostly Plants,” third graders met with experts on local and seasonal food, including a chef, a caterer, and a nutritionist. Before fifth graders created their comic books about student rights, Bob Flynn, a professional cartoonist (who draws Spongebob), taught them how to design and draw a comic strip. While it is fun to have an expert visitor, it goes beyond that. We want our students to understand that what they are learning in their classrooms is connected to real work in the professional world.

We have another important group of experts visit our classrooms, too. People within our own G&P Community! For example, in our 2nd grade expedition about how and why people came to America, parents and staff were invited to share their own stories about how they came to the U.S. Through these stories, we build a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other. We have also had parents visit our kindergarten classes to share their expertise on a range of things, from Google Maps to bicycle repair. We are always looking for parents to share their expertise with our students.

But we don’t just invite experts into our school. We go beyond the four walls of school to explore our community. Second graders visited different local ethnic restaurants to interview recently arrived immigrants and tried new foods. When the third graders studied Cambridge, they visited City Hall. City Councillor Craig Kelley gave them a tour of the building and explained how city government works. Fourth graders visited the Tsongas Industrial Center in Lowell, MA to learn about how the Industrial Revolution began there.

These visitors and field trips are a lot of fun, but they are not just for entertainment. They are an essential part of learning. Our students get to see how the things they are learning are important to our whole community and the world.