I believe that people have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder about the world. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. Storytelling is a unique way for students to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and can promote a positive attitude about people and places.
A sense of place refers to an emotional connection to some aspect of the wilderness in the world that surrounds us. It invites a sense of community. The message shared is that acknowledgement that our communities -natural and cultural- are teachers and have deep lessons for us to learn from.
There is something transformational about teaching and learning outside, and not just when the sun is shining and the breeze is warm but in all weather. Standing in a circle, feeling a light rain on your cheeks as members of the group welcome one other, acknowledging the land and all the potential for your time there together, these are opportunities to recognize land not as something to be managed, to take from, but as a friend to connect with, a partner in a reciprocal relationship. Nature-rich spaces need not involve a bus ride or an overnight excursion; authentic outdoor learning can happen right in our backyards, our schoolyards and our local parks
Following the Geo-Inquiry Journey ...
In the moments of pause with COVID (do you notice how COVID is always in capitals? -I know, because it is an acronym, but it still always stands out like it is yelling all in capitals like that). I reflected in what is important to me in my teaching. Several key things were evident. The learning in my classroom needs to be authentic, connected to people living the work we learn about, and worthwhile for students (and myself) to take up. Through the National Geographic Geo-Inquiry I have found a clear plan (a map if you will) of how to take this up... Therefore, I was excited to start the school year again....
...upon returning after months away from school, my class too was all in capitals. Not really yelling, but talking! and TALKING! and wanting to be heard! To not feel so isolated in this time.
Giving space to find out journey ...
The National Geographic Geo-Inquiry starts with a meaningful question. One based in being able to help students better understand how to address a community issue or solve a local problem founded in a local geographic issue.
Yet the school year started out like herding cats!
I always start getting students outside in the beginning of the year with 4 main routines. I learned these from Lesley Tait, (a Cree Knowledge Keeper). We engage in a sit spot, we walk and talk, we do storytelling and circle, and we eat together
These reflects often leads to deep questions and discussions and finally a geo-inquiry question.
.....my class went through every, what if, that I have heard other teachers comment about getting kids outside.. what if you have a student who is severely allergic to grass, trees..?; what if you have students who runs off?; what if you have students who stomp on animals and insect? (oh don't ask, that was not fun); what if you have a parent livid that their child is not "doing school" when outside?; what if you have students who don't dress appropriately (even if you have drawn diagrams and discussed);
what if ...
Oh, but don't get discouraged dear reader.... because slowly, and sometimes in bright bursts of genius, these students jumped the process of asking, collecting, designing... to knowing what they really wanted to do.
They really wanted to build connections in our community to the local land through discussions with indigenous elders, community members, authors, and science experts. They wanted to help others find that connection - that place binds and connects us through. They are curious enough to want to know ways to make this happen. They are change makers.
Setting out in our journey....
In order to make informed decisions about making this happen, we went back to looking at how the complex and dynamic human and natural systems interact.
Collecting data and information is an essential components of the Geo-Inquiry Process. We looked at many different types of data and information using different methods of collection. Data collection included images, sounds, video clips, and maps. As well as reading and listening to stories.
Through their experience with COVID, the students realized our world is more than ever interconnected. We started looking at ways we could create, illustrate and celebrate these connections. We started the collecting and information phase of the geo-inquiry process.
They also had a background of connecting with Elder Randy Bottle. He is from the blood tribe -Kainai Nation, Treaty 7 who visits and shares stories with our students. Many of these students have know him since kindergarten. Having learned stories of the land (around the medicine wheel, in the teepee and under the sky). He always shares the connection people have to the natural world through story.
“The land does speak to you,” says Elder Bottle. “You just have to listen and to be very observant.”
One of the most effective ways I have found to relate information is through images. Powerful images often come in maps. With the help of a virtual visit from Angela Alexander (ESRI Canada's K-12 Education Resource Developer), we started exploring questions about who we would connect with through this project. Who would be our audience (from data maps from our city). We also looked at where the stories could be shared in our community and where the natural spaces are located.
The community action that we wanted to create was, "we want to change the mindset of people. The people who enjoy nature are already out going for walks and exploring. We want to encourage people who normally don't go out (perhaps because they are busy playing video games, or don't know what to do when they get outside). We want those people to get out and see the benefits of spending time in nature. Change their mindset. The best way we can think of is tell them a story about the importance and things to learn and discover outside. Getting them out to hear a story will make them want to be more connected as a community and to nature". Meyer.
The Geo-Inquiry Process relies heavily on using a geographic perspective, offering a unique lens to analyze space, place and the interconnections between both the human and natural world. Using both a geographic perspective and the Geo-Inquiry Process you will begin to connect complex components, see patterns, and make connections as they look at the world differently in order to make informed predictions, well-reasoned decisions and inform public policy and community action.
The Geo-Inquiry Process consists of five phases, which are listed below. The goal of this Geo-Inquiry project is for you and your team to find a solution to the issue you have defined by proposing a solution to the issue or through community action. Through this process, you will create a Geo-Inquiry Story, which you will share with an audience that will be receptive to your story. Use this worksheet as a project organizer. Mark each phase as you work through it. Add notes after each phase as needed. For example, you might want to keep track of any worksheets or handouts you receive, due dates, or questions you have for your teacher or for your team. Phase 1: Ask Developing a Geo-Inquiry Question Draft a Geo-Inquiry Question, which is the “big” driving question that guides a Geo-Inquiry Project. This question is geographic in nature, open-ended, action oriented and generally community-focused issues to be solved.
I’m so happy to be able to support and encourage them in their project that is working to make this happen.
Phase 4: Create Developing Geo-Inquiry Stories Next, you will create your The Geo-Inquiry story. Keep in mind the audience you have identified in previous phases, as you will present it to them. Develop your story as a multi-media presentation, designed to inform, inspire and change minds of your audience regarding the Geo-Inquiry Question. It should include the Geo-Inquiry Question, scientific data and research, visuals (maps, charts, photographs, video), in an inspiring multi-media package.
Phase 5: Act Sharing Geo-Inquiry Stories In this final phase, you will explore the best way to present your Geo-Inquiry Story to the audience you have identified. Finally, you will present your Geo-Inquiry Story and use it to take action.
The power of stories to capture out hearts.
Capturing the power of stories to share
Adventures captures the heart