Living History – How to Respond to Current Events – Key Learnings from Toddle Talks Webinar
Relating units to Current events
Whether it is climate change protest, a hurricane, a volcanic eruption or something more positive like the Olympics or the celebration of an Independence day, significant events have an effect on our life experience. For a very young learner, an event of significance may be a visit to a grandparent or a birthday party. This becomes part of their personal story and it is important for them to express their experiences and responses.
Through this blog and webinar, we will discuss significant units of inquiries and how they connect with children’s experiences of the world and current events.
Our expression of experience
A unit on story telling or artistic expression offers very young children the opportunity to learn techniques and develop their communication skills. Responding to our environment and recording our experiences brings opportunities to observe for detail, expand vocabulary, develop personal reflection capabilities and extend creativity.
Central Ideas such as ‘Storytellers engage audiences through structure and creativity’ and ‘Artists use inspiration from their environment, and experiences to create and innovate’ can allow children to express what is meaningful to them while continuing to develop skills and strategies through structured explorations and demonstrations.
The concepts of Form, Function and Perspective can be thoroughly unpacked in these inquiries.
Our place in the world
The Central Idea ‘Location can affect life experience’ allows children to first explore the meaning of location, as their place in the world. They then expand to inquiring into how locations can be physically different from one another, and extend to making connections between where people live and their life experience. Within this they can also express their own life experiences and develop many constructive social studies skills as they explore the concepts of Form, Perspective and Causation.
Our place in history
It’s true to say that at this moment in time, we are living through history in the making? But aren’t we always? The Central Idea ‘Significant events can alter people’s world view’ could refer to anything we choose to apply it to. This year the children I worked with collected evidence of climate change struggle, natural disasters around the world, mass migration due to war and famine, as well as experiencing the current global crisis. On a more simplistic level this could refer to personal events of significance, the birth of a sibling, the loss of a grandparent, even a change of school. Change, Causation and Perspective, are the concepts I see as strongest within this inquiry.
If we would like our learners to see themselves as historians, capable of explaining and expressing the importance of the events they experience, then a Central Idea such as ‘Present day experience can become historical record’ could provide scope for both exploration of events, and necessary skills development. The idea can also be explored from multiple perspectives; using historical evidence to understand lives in the past and curating historical records from personal experiences.
This brings opportunity to unpack the concepts of Form, Perspective and Responsibility.
Our Organisational Structures
At first, our class teachers thought that the entrepreneurship unit would be very challenging through remote learning. However, they realised that many businesses operate digitally, and that many entrepreneurs were taking advantage of emerging needs. Thinking more about available resources; inner resources, as well as the physical resources and human resources available to the children, they saw an opportunity to approach the unit from a fresh perspective, open minded to what their learners might create in response to this moment in time. The Entrepreneurs unit lends itself well to exploring Function, Connection and Responsibility.
Units designed with conceptual breadth can apply across a range of contexts and situations. You can use any content you like as a case study or demonstration and children can choose to go further with what has been demonstrated or to extend their learning into what personally interests them. Children can practice skills and construct their own understanding through personal or group inquiries within the big idea. The sharing of the scope of their inquiries and expressions of learning, will lead back to the big idea, supporting all learners to make and understand generalisations, but also to value their own particular contributions to the learning of the group.
With thanks to my colleagues at KIS International School, Bangkok for their input into some of these Central Ideas. And to the three students who contributed their artwork.
Want to develop a deeper understanding of these units of inquiry? Watch Kirtsen’s webinar here.