Post-Walking: Debriefing & Extending Learning Across The Curriculum

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Suggestions For Follow-Up, Debriefing, Extensions

How you debrief or follow-up each walk is important for supporting the development of a robust sense of place and your cross-curricular lessons. There are, of course, many ways to extend learning experiences—as an experienced teacher you will have many ideas.

Here are a few:

Sometimes you might have students discuss their “findings” or experiences in small or large groups. You might pose a question for the class to discuss as a whole or for students to consider individually. Students might be given a “prompt” that they then respond to in a journal. For example, you might ask for a general response such as what surprised them on the walk or what they did not expect.

√ You might have students document the information specific to the walk (e.g. aspects of the “vertical” world; the “borders” they notice—what they do will depend on walk themes). In addition to an identified topic or theme, many of the walks in the curriculum also have a challenge or activity listed with them. You will find things like “collecting and organizing”, “mental imagery”, “the senses”, or “the literate eye”. These are examples of cognitive tools of Imaginative Education and represent ways to tap into your students’ imaginations. (To learn about each tool, you might follow the Tools of Imagination series on this blog.) It is up to you whether or not you assign the activity or challenge along with the walk of course. These are included in order to show you ways to follow-up that engage emotions and imaginations.

Of course, you will adapt how they document their experience according to the needs of the class—young students might record specific words to show their ideas or they might draw or sketch. Older students could draw in response to their walks, but they could also be asked to classify their findings, labeling or listing ideas, and then writing more detailed descriptions. Always encourage multi-modal documentation of learning as often as possible—allow verbal or written output but also include opportunities for students to employ their bodies to express understanding if appropriate (gesture for example).

As a follow-up—and transition—students might take what they learned and use it as a basis for work in another subject area (e.g. findings might lead to Art activities or students could be asked to sketch plants or animals that they have observed closely or are studying currently in Science. Later, students could research the species and come to understand how it fits into larger themes the class is studying.) As a topic for a walk, students might seek examples of concepts outdoors that reflect topics they are studying indoors (e.g. interdependence, symbiosis). It is not only Science, however, that can shape and extend walks. Students can consider environmental ethics from evidence of the human-nature relationship. They may think more about topics seemingly unrelated to the outdoors—e.g. government, responsibility, impact—after seeking evidence of these in the natural world. They may embark on any number of creative writing projects based on the stories of “found” objects. Language classes can extend learning through vocabulary development.

So, there are many options for follow-up; what matters most is that follow-up happens. Always allow for post-walk reflection and extensions of learning; this is valuable time to emphasize student experience and emotional engagement with place and with curricular topics.

What are your ideas for walking and learning?  Please let us know!


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