Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Experiential Learning Sticks!

After spending a few weeks learning about prehistory, archaeology and forensics, it was time to assess the kiddos. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of content-laden tests. In fact, I don't give tests. I would rather assess what the kids really have learned instead of what they've crammed from the study guide in order to regurgitate it on a nearly-identical test paper. To me, that kind of "assessment" is not learning, it is merely playing the game of school.

We did not fill our time with talk of the Stone Age or the Copper Age. Those are good to know about but not essential. The kids can Google facts about those ages if they want. No, what I am more interested in the kids learning is the problem-solving that goes into acquiring new knowledge even if there are no accompanying written documents. Our overarching question for the unit has been "How do we know what we know?"

We watched the fascinating film about Otzi the Iceman. The kids were amazed by the archaeological discoveries made through observation, testing, forensics and developing and testing dozens of hypotheses. We saw some video from the Discovery Channel about a cold case death and the forensics involved in that event as well. The kids also did their own archaeological dig so that they could experience first-hand the thinking and hypothesis testing that goes into discovery learning. Through all of our learning activities, we kept in mind the "hows" and "whys" behind the learning. The kids experienced as much as possible in the time frame that we had.

In today's assessment, the kids wrote for a class period to the question "How do we know what we know?" They were able to use their archaeological dig experience, the film they saw, the puzzles they worked, the games they played and the texts they read in order to expound on what they knew about the subject. I expect that the writing pieces will be of good quality because they have written about things they've seen and done themselves. They experienced the learning. Experiential learning sticks!

Here are some scenes from our archaeological dig.

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