Social Studies Classes - While getting ready to turn my class over to a student-driven (or student-designed) learning model for our Medieval unit, I am torn. Of course I will outline the learning goals that they must achieve in their individual way but I also want them to apply what they learn to their lives today. If we are not empowering kids with the tools they need for their lives and futures, then are we really doing them a service?
I want these kids to go beyond learning the curriculum and content of the Medieval unit. I want them to see how what happened in those times can be seen even today, in their world. I want the "capstone" of this unit to be an inquiry project with each student (or group) considering a "big" question of their own choosing. Showing kids what an inquiry question looks like will take a bit of time. I define it as a question that has not yet been answered and forces the student to create new knowledge. These types of questions are difficult to construct but kiddos can do it! I tell them, "If you can Google the answer, then it's not an inquiry question!" These are the kinds of questions about which books are written.
Wouldn't it be cool to pursue one aspect of the Middle Ages and really learn about it? How could what you learn about that topic apply to your life today? This is the stuff of which inquiry-based learning is made. I want kids to use the content we discuss in class as a springboard to a more focused project of their choosing. I will model some questions for the kids and some of them may choose one of them as their project questions.
Questions I am thinking of including as examples are:
- How would the USA look if we had Feudalism as our governmental system?
- In what ways is the class system in the United States comparable to the class system of Medieval Europe?
- How is war waged differently now than it was during the Crusades (include more than just obvious technological advances)?
- How does the role of women change from Classical Greece and Rome to the Medieval period of England.
- What kind of "personal fulfillment" did people have in their lives during the Medieval period and how does that compare to today?
- In the Middle Ages, countries often went to war over territory. What was the process of going to war then and how does it compare to the Russia/Crimea/Ukraine situation today?
- Many people trace the birth of the Renaissance to the Crusades. Explain why they would make this claim.
While not every student will want to investigate these topics, these questions represent the kinds of question I hope the kids will ask and attempt to answer. A good inquiry questions is a great exercise in thinking and researching and that is what I want these kiddos to do!