Scenes from the 3rd and 4th grade class -project time

I have been enjoying helping the 3/4 class during their project time 3 days a week. We started with some simple questions about why people leave places and move to new ones, but as the students have learned more about their families and about the big ideas of immigration and migration, more and more questions have presented themselves.
I hope that the class can see that inquiry like this does take time. Even the students who quickly got a lot of family information and found out where their family was before they got to this country, now have to put that in context. What does it mean that my ancestor probably left Ireland between 1845 and 1855? (It was during the Irish Potato Famine). Now you have to go find out more about that! The students seem to get discouraged at times by the lack of easy answers, but are re-energized when good stories or potential connections are uncovered. I have faith in the cycle of inquiry, including the part where disequilibrium is felt. I know that this, which can feel like discouragement, frustration, or even nervousness and fear, is a valuable part of the best learning. But the students don't have as much faith, they just feel bad!

The cure and the reason to keep going is the stories. We have found some good ones, from those in books, to some of the family history, like the song written about Ravenel's ancestor who ran for congress, and stories about Ian's Grandfather, who was a war hero. Even some of the family trees that seem less exciting have potential. For instance, Hannah and Lilac are thinking about the story of the early settlers -what must their lives have been like?

Like I said, I have utmost confidence in the cycle of inquiry, whether it is with preschoolers or 3/4s, and in both cases there is learning for me as the teacher as well as for the children, and disequilibrium for all as well. I would love to hear from other constructivist (or Reggio inspired) educators working with older children. Is there anyone out there?


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