The Intermediate team at Brentwood Elementary decided to collaborate on a Social Studies Inquiry Project. To be honest, none of the six teachers involved had any idea at that time about how large the project would become, how challenging and time consuming it would be, and how transformative it would be to our teaching practice and the lives of our students. Our initial goal was to incorporate more local First Nations content into the grade four and five Social Studies curriculum, and as this conversation was beginning between our Intermediate teachers, our Learning Commons teacher, and our Indigenous Education teacher, we had a professional development day with Misty Paterson on Inquiry Based Learning. With support from our administration, that session evolved into two more collaborative meetings made possible by in-school release time, and during those sessions we came up with the six key concepts and a big question that would guide our inquiry.
There were five main components to our Inquiry Project, Two Worlds Meet.
The purpose of this day was to introduce students to the project, specifically the six key concepts and grab their attention by engaging them in multi-age and multi-class groupings. Students circulated in their groups to various locations in the school and were engaged in half hour mini lessons by six teachers.
A part of this day was introducing Settlers of Canada, an enormous board game based on Settlers of Catan that would be played by all students throughout the unit.
Building Background Knowledge
This process included a series of lessons and activities that gave a preliminary introduction to the content area.
Using our previous multi-age and multi-class groupings, students again circulated through a series of lessons that included forming an inquiry question, good research practices, and engaging ways of sharing their questions and their knowledge.
Classes worked collaboratively to share resources and space. These resources included 30 topic-based bins that had both print resources and physical artifacts. The topics were student-generated based on their own inquiry question.
Inquiry blocks were busy, yet productive, periods of time where students developed questions, investigated areas of interest, and assembled their projects, working both independently and with peers.
Two Worlds Meet Inquiry Museum
This project culminated with a museum displaying the questions and learnings of 125 grade four and five students.
This was a chance for students to share their learning with each other, their school, and the larger community.
The feedback we received from staff, parents, and community members was overwhelmingly positive both because of the scope of the projects, but also because of the depth of knowledge displayed by young students about complex subjects and topic areas.
This project required an incalculable amount of time and energy, but happened because of the collaboration of not only the teachers involved, but the administration and larger school community. We are grateful to have been able to participate in this process and feel that our learning continues even though the project itself is completed. It has transformed the way that we teach, how we view collaboration, and has expanded our expectations not only of ourselves but also the students we are privileged to teach.
Below is the link to our wiki that includes a unit overview, lesson plans, and other resources. This page is a work in progress and is still being updated.
Aimee Lampard, Sherisse Norris, Carmen Di Lucca, Tamara Scott, Tracey Westwood, and Jeni-Lynn Blackie