"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Sharing passion-driven exploration

Thursday's news of the landing of Philae on a comet lead me to revamp my lesson for my fourth graders on Friday.  I mean, really, how often is it that scientists can land a device on a "dirty snowball" 317 million miles away? 

After greeting the students I began telling them about my grandfather and how he would take the grandchildren outside after dinner and talk about the stars, the galaxies, and the solar system. I shared that I always thought of him when I looked up at the night sky and how easily I could remember the warmth of his hand as it wrapped around mine when we stood out there star gazing on cooler nights.  I explained that my grandfather was a mathematician and chemical engineer who studied the creation of the Universe. (I wrote a bit about my grandfather in the post about The Fourteenth Goldfish.)

I went on to say that I thought of my grandfather on Thursday and imagined that he would be as excited to hear of the successful landing of Philae on the comet. I recounted a few of the facts: the comet is 317 million miles away; the comet is only a few miles across; and the comet is moving at an incredible speed. As I was going on to explain that the scientists had waited ten years to see if their mission was a success, a number of hands shot up. It turns out that quite a few of my fourth graders (in each class) are space buffs as well. The students took over the details and we were off on our learning adventure!

What if you wanted to learn more about comets? What resources can you access through the library Webpage?  

This lesson was the perfect opportunity to emphasize that our library resources are available where ever they have a device and an Internet connection.  Why wait until school the next day?  The library Webpage is a just-in-time resource.

I launched Chrome, talked about our browser bookmarks, and opened the Library Webpage.

We began with Destiny, our library catalogue. I typed "comets" into the search box on the home page and explored the results with the students. We talked about search results, call numbers, neighborhoods. We expanded our search after exploring the subject headings under a few titles and finally decided on these five titles for their currency and subject matter.

Back to our library Webpage we went and I modeled how to get to the electronic resources. 
We started with the Encyclopedia Britannica. We searched for articles on Comets and read the first article after perusing the search results. We explored the accompanying images and videos. We went back to the search results and read this article about Maria Mitchell.

I couldn't help but bookmark a few articles from the NYT and NPR. The students were equally jazzed about the images and videos.

Given that it is Picture Book Month, I gave special note to the nonfiction picture books, biographies, and story picture books that related to our search and finished up the lesson by reading this great picture book:

At which point thirty minutes had passed. Luckily I had alerted the classroom teachers and had asked for an additional ten minutes for browsing and borrowing.  I am eager to see if this lesson inspired the students to follow their own interests and engage in passion-driven exploration with the library resources.

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