Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Ah, so this is how interest-led learning works...

The history curriculum I had planned to use this year was Story of the World, Volume 3.  We finished Volume 3 in the days after Hurricane Sandy when we had no electricity and our Governor asked us not to go outside because of all the downed power lines, yet my husband was driving all over this state to remove downed trees from power lines to restore power--I needed something to get my mind and the girls' minds off of the potential danger for Jason.  We read chapter after chapter and discussed them and sometimes notebooked about them.  When the power was restored and the library reopened, we had finished the volume but we searched out supplemental reading on topics that interested us.  Biographies and historical novels about The Trail of Tears and the Alamo and the Gold Rush.

Allie had read Number the Stars in public school in fourth grade and had become fascinated with World War II.  Over the last two and a half years, she has read The Diary of Anne Frank and other books about the Holocaust.  This winter she decided to engage in a project to organize all the information she had gathered on World War II and this lead to gathering more information on the topic (and trying unsuccessfully to convince me that she was ready to read some more graphic, dark tales of this very grim period in history).  Ah, I said to myself, so this is how interest-led learning works.  If I had assigned this it would have been drudgery, it would have been met with resistance and it would have been something to check off a list and get the bare minimum done by a deadline.  But, since this was her project, she willingly spent hours upon hours gathering and organizing information; she animatedly discussed this project every evening with Jason and I; she sought out new material; she talked about different ways to organize what she learned: should she do a Powerpoint to go with it?  or a poster?  or just keep it to a booklet?  It's still a work in progress, though many pages are done.  Allie got side-tracked by a new interest in a different historical period, but that doesn't mean the learning she did about Nazi Germany was for naught, she has retained everything she learned and  would contend that it is far more than the average 13 year old knows about this topic.

In February, I had set up a display at the library for Black History Month and Allie wanted to read the biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.   Reading about Martin Luther King, Jr. lead to wanting to read Rosa Parks and Ruby Bridges and Claudette Colvin and Ida B. Wells biographies.  It lead to Allie asking if she could read The Help, which I did consent to, and several other historical novels about racial inequality.

This lead to several conversations about how strongly she feels about everyone being treated equally.  I am not sure exactly how this information will shape her, but I am certain that it will.  It's not information that I gave her or required her to learn, it's information that she sought out on her own and it is making her grow as a person.