A Walking Curriculum (#10): Evoke Wonder And Develop Sense of Place (K-12)

I’m pleased to announce that the Walking Curriculum is expanding! Coming soon: Resources for secondary school students that look at issues of “walkability”, social justice, and community development. So please stay tuned!

This set of walks and resources (Set #10) was suggested by the awesome teachers in Surrey, B.C., Canada, who participated in a “#getoutside” Walking Curriculum workshop I did on May 5, 2017. Thank you teachers for these ideas! [Are you new to the Walking Curriculum? Please visit this page to get important  information for implementing it with your students.]

As always, these walking-focused learning activities are for all educators.  As you teach curriculum topics, you can #getoutside and engage students with the natural world in your community or schoolyard. This post includes 5 walking themes. Decide which would be most suitable for your students–all can be modified.

Each walking theme is followed by at least one imagination-focused question, challenge, or activity. These prompts are all tools in the imaginative educator’s toolkit. If you are wondering about what these “tools” are and/or where these teaching ideas come from please read more about Imaginative Education. There is lots of information on this blog and I also have a series of blog posts that teach about the Tools of Imagination.

5 Themed Walks

Silent Walk. What does this place sound like? Besides the sound of your own feet on the ground, what do you hear? (For this walk students should not talk. Aim for total silence—I know, this may take some time and practice. It will also require your careful introduction and setting of the imaginative context. Besides not talking to each other (or singing or humming or sniffing or sneezing), challenge students to walk as quietly as possible.) Engage The Body: Back together—in pairs, small groups, or even as a whole class—students should pick 1 sound they heard and use their own voices to recreate it. After all students have shared, discuss whether the sounds were natural or human-created. What do the sounds they noticed say about this place? Extremes & Limits/Heroic Qualities: We don’t hear nearly as well as some animals. Ask the students if they know which animal has the BEST hearing (Answer: Moth). Can they name the top 10? (Moth, Bat, Owl, Elephant, Dog, Cat, Horse, Dolphin, Rat, Pigeon) *You could give clues with the first letter or something…playing with knowledge is the best! Now, ask students to imagine they are one of these animals. In role as an elephant, or moth, or cat etc., suggest to students that they have this amazing superpower to hear what humans can not hear. So what do they hear? What kinds of noises do they imagine are going on all around them? [Here is a website about these super-hearing animals.]

Size Walk. What’s big? What’s small? What’s short? What’s tall? This walk asks students to examine the different heights of things in the playground. First encourage students to walk the schoolyard and identify things they believe are “small,” “medium,” and “large”. They can create a list as they go. (Young students can make a sketch or write single words down—or you can keep the activity oral by asking each student to identify one small, one medium and one large object.) Don’t give them much more direction ahead of time. To follow up, ask students to review/share their lists. What did they put into each category? How did they decide? To extend the activity, have students actually measure the heights of the different schoolyard items they have listed. They can first use a non-standard unit of measurement of their choosing (pencil, arm, shoe length etc.) and then they could practice with standard units measurement. They will have to estimate those super tall objects! Anomalies/Sense Of Wonder. Challenge students’ classifications by naming some very small items or very large—do the categories still apply? What additional categories would they include to incorporate these new items? What items would fit into multiple categories? (e.g. do any items change size?) Change the perspective! Ask: if we aren’t doing this activity as humans but as, say, a dinosaur, how do our classifications of small, medium, large change?

Stride Walk. Begin by asking students if they know what “a stride” is or what it means “to stride”. (Dictionary definition: “to stride” means to walk with quick, long steps. “A stride” is a long step taken walking or running.) Find a suitable place outside to have fun with striding! Students can be asked to measure what their personal (typical) stride is when walking fast, when jogging, and when sprinting. They can figure out how best to complete this task with a partner. Reflection:  How is a walk different when on goes slowly and one strides?  What is gained?  What is lost? Metaphor: Walking metaphors are used a lot in everyday language. Challenge students to identify one and explain its meaning. Suggest students don’t do this assignment with too many distractions, though, as it could put them off their stride. (Examples: to walk through a document/plan/process; to be on uneven ground; to lose your way etc.) Create a metaphor collection somewhere in the classroom/school as students share their answers. Encourage students to add to it. Chew it! There is a brand of gum called “Stride”. Have they tried it? What feeling or idea does this company want to evoke with this brand name? Is it a good name for a brand of gum? Why/why not?

Habitat Walk. Remind students that the schoolyard is a habitat for many creatures and plants. In order to survive, an animal needs five things: food, water, shelter, air, and (for animals) a place to raise its young. On this walk, ask students to investigate this question: Does this place have each of these elements in adequate supply? Students should try to find evidence of each of the 5 requirements for life. Sense of Agency: Ask students: How do you think the playground could be changed to make survival easier for animals? What are your recommendations? Have them write a letter to the principal about the changes they would like to see that would make the life of one of the neighbourhood creatures easier or that would support more plant life. (Kid-friendly internet site on habitats here. )

Woodsy Walk. What’s the difference? What’s the same? This walk focuses on differentiating trees from shrubs. (*This walk will only work if you have both in the playground or in close proximity to the school.) You might first ask students to describe a tree and a then describe a shrub. Ask them to identify what they think trees and shrubs have in common. (Answer: Both trees and shrubs have “woody” parts; this is what defines them.). Now have students become botanists (plant scientists) from another solar system. Using all of their senses they must closely observe a tree and a shrub. They must describe the differences and come up with a definition for their botanist friends. [Note: A tree is defined as a “woody plant having one erect perennial stem (trunk) at least three inches in diameter at a point 4-1/2 feet above the ground, a definitely formed crown of foliage, and a mature height of at least 13 feet.” A shrub is opposite in many ways. It is a “woody plant with several perennial stems that may be erect or may lay close to the ground. It will usually have a height less than 13 feet and stems no more than about three inches in diameter.” Source: The SpruceExtremes & Limits/Anomalies—When is a “tree” not a tree? When it’s an herb!* A “banana tree” is not a tree—don’t let appearances fool you. It is the world’s largest herb. Some “trees” don’t fit the definition—challenge students to do some research to find exceptions. (Exceptions to the “tree” rule/definition above: River Birch and Japanese Maple—these are two kinds of trees that have multiple trunks. The Banyan tree is another very cool anomaly. What’s unique about the Banyan tree?) Challenge students to also find information on extreme trees (largest trunk, oldest, tallest etc.)—record-breaking trees! Ask them to use a visual image (evoked with words) or use their bodies to convey the record-breaking features of the trees they research (e.g. to reveal the size of the tree with the largest trunk they might arrange their classmates in an an appropriately sized circle, holding hands). (When jokes don’t transfer: *When is a door not a door? When it’s ajar.)

Updates & Additions

Addition to The Colour Walk: The Deceptive Colour Walk. Sometimes colours are not what they seem to be. Have students rub the natural coloured objects that they have collected onto a white sheet of paper (flowers, grass, leaves, twigs etc.). See what colour it really is! Pose questions about why the colours aren’t what they seem. Which items are the same colour?

The “Whose Been Here?” book series by Lindsay Barrett George offers a nice encourages students’ to engage with the mystery of place and other non-human members of their community.

Along with the Searching For Aliens Walk you might use the book entitled Aliens Among Us: Invasive Animals & Plants in British Columbia by Alex Van Tol.

Check Out This App! This app would make a great addition to the Birds’ Eye View Walk. Download the Chirp! Bird Songs Canada app so you and your students can identify the bird songs/calls you hear on the playground. (Find a similar app for your own country.) Engage the body/Formation of Emotional Attachments: Students should work on perfecting one birdcall!

Important Links For Users

To maximize the effectiveness of the activities, take time to visit the following pages on this blog:

Some Background Information About the Resource

Before You Start:  Preparing To Use The Walking Curriculum

Before You Start:  Introducing The Curriculum To Students

Post-Walking:  Debriefing & Extending Learning Across The Curriculum

Motivations, Musings, & Sources of Inspiration

All The Walks!

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