Inquiry into Color

Color. Seems like one of the more straight-forward aspects of our world, but lately, I’ve come across several resources to make me wonder. And since that’s what these provocation posts are all about — inviting wonder — I thought it would be fitting to dedicate a post to color.

At first glance, you might think an inquiry into color would only have applications in art, but it is much more rooted in the social and physical sciences than I would have guessed! So take a look and see what might inspire your students to dig into the deeper concepts for their next unit!

Resource #1: The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin & Rosana Faria

How do you explain color to someone who can’t see? A fascinating picture book of raised images to represent the different colors!

via Amazon

Resource #2: “Kids Describe Color to a Blind Person” by WatchCut Video

Speaking of color and blindness, check this video out of kid attempting to explain it to a man who is blind!

Resource #3: Colorscope series from CNN

The Kid Should See This has compiled all the videos into one page here.

Resource #4: The World’s Deadliest Colors by TedEd

Provocation Questions: 

  • How does color work in our society?
  • How have the perspectives on color changed over time?
  • What are reasons humans care about color?
  • How has human fascination with color impacted our world over time?
  • How is color related to perspective?
  • What is the relationship between color and human health?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

The World Then & Now: A Where We Are in Place & Time Provocation

This week brings another Where We Are in Place and Time provocation–I promise, these resources are too fantastic to wait (for more PYP units of inquiry provocations, see the archive here).

The first is Dear Photograph, a website to which individuals submit photos of photos held up in the same location after time has passed. Quite apart from being a remarkable way to make change, time, and history more tangible, it is also a beautiful example of reflection. Below are a few favorites; see the site for more!

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501077405/dear-photograph-dont-grow-up-youll-just-have

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501198690/dear-photograph-its-hard-to-imagine-this-photo

https://maryac88.tumblr.com/post/155501377410/dear-photograph-i-inherited-my-grandmothers

The second is along the same lines: Peter Perry’s “Then/Now” series of photos of historical sites with old photos transposed over the modern location. Below are a few:

1968 Warsaw Pact nations invading Czechoslovakia
1968 Warsaw Pact nations invading Czechoslovakia, Prague National Museum
American forces marching through Germany in 1945

Provocation Questions

  • How is personal change different than global change?
  • How is personal change the same as global change?
  • How can thinking about perspectives of people in the future impact our thinking about world events now?

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

Change: A “Where We Are in Place & Time” Provocation

The big picture framework for the PYP “Where We Are in Place & Time” unit is intended to help students explore:

  • our orientation in place and time
  • our personal histories
  • the discoveries, explorations, and migrations of humankind

This morning, the School of Life Youtube channel shared their video, “Why You Can Change the World.” It also contains why so many people feel they cannot. I find this to be a resource that has great potential to help students consider their personal impact on the world’s progress, along with inquiries into the nature of change, history, and confidence.

The second resource that lends itself to an inquiry into change is this Huffington Post photo series of work done by women around the world. In many instances, the juxtaposition of old world tasks/technology with modern tools or clothing provides ample food for thought for students to consider how/why things are changing throughout the world. The captions also provide invaluable background to guide their thinking. Click the above link or any of the photos for more.

“A woman works at a plant of porcelain manufacturing society JL Coquet in Saint-Leonard-de-Noblat near Limoges, France on July 5, 2013. (MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)”
“Mahboubeh Khoshsolat, one of the only women’s fire and rescue units in the Middle East, slides down the fire pole at Fire Station No. 9 Oct. 5, 2005 in the city of Karaj, west of the Iranian capital Tehran. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images)”
Photo taken on January 22, 2014, shows women working on a carpet in a tiny factory in Kostandovo, a small village in Bulgaria’s southern Rhodope mountains. (DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
“A picture taken on July 8, 2013 shows a woman working on a wind turbine at a plant of Gamesa in the Northern Spanish village of Aoiz, Navarra province. (RAFA RIVAS/AFP/Getty Images)”
“An Indian woman works collecting salt in the salt pans near Dhrangadhra, Gujarat. (Malcolm Chapman/Getty Images)”

Provocation Questions: 

  • What is history like?
  • What do you notice about how people change?
  • Why does work look different for people across the world?
  • How is the “world being made and remade every instant?”
  • How are confidence and change related?

This is part of a series of provocations designed to align with the IB Primary Years’ Programme transdisciplinary themes. Click here for more

featured image: DeathToTheStockPhoto

3 Timeless Lessons From “The Yellow Star” About Cyberbullying

The “Yellow Star” by Carmen Agra Deedy beautifully illustrates the legend of King Christian X standing with his Jewish people by wearing a yellow star during Nazi occupation.

And while the Danish Jews were never actually forced to wear the star, confirmation of the king’s support for his Jewish people have surfaced, including “substantial evidence that the King actually suggested the idea of everyone wearing the yellow star should the Danish Jews be forced to wear it.” (source)

Legend or not, this 20th century story highlights timeless lessons of humanity that we find especially applicable to the 21st century subject of cyberbullying.

  1. Teach Solidarity

“Early in the year 1940…there were only Danes. Tall Danes, stout Danes, cranky Danes, even Great Danes.”

We must actively teach our students that what we have in common outweighs our differences. Cyberbullying offers a shroud of anonymity that can tempt some people to forget that a living, feeling human being is on the other side of that unkind post or dehumanizing poll. We can bring that shroud out of obscurity by directly talking about it. About digital citizenship. About the human experience. And about whether it’s really worth making someone else feel like they don’t belong.

  1. Teach Courage

“If you wished to hide a star,” wondered the king to himself, “where would you place it?” His eyes searched the heavens. “Of course!” he thought. The answer was so simple. “You would hide it among its sisters.”

I recently came across a disturbing article about a poll for the ugliest girl at a high school. And though the young woman who was targeted responded courageously, I was left wondering how each kid involved in that poll could have acted with more courage, too. How can we teach them to take initiative and take a stand, even if it isn’t very popular? I believe it starts with us. We need to model the courage to stand up and say no, even in a society that often turns “cruelty into entertainment and sport.”  

  1. Teach Empathy

“What if the good and strong people of the world stood shoulder to shoulder, crowding the streets and filling the squares, saying,’ You cannot do this injustice to our sisters and brothers, or you must do it to us as well.’ What if?”

Empathy requires us to truly reach other people. It rejects in-group/out-group. It embraces vulnerability and imperfections. It places genuine value on every human being. Cyberbullying creates in-group/out-groups. It exploits people’s vulnerabilities and imperfections. And it tears apart the self-worth of everyone it can. We need teachers who will dare to voice exactly what cyberbullying is all about, “Go[ing] beyond praising the right behaviors — proactively counteract[ing] the forces that stand in their way. This is where standing up, not just standing by, comes in.” (“Empathy: The Most Important Back-to-School Supply”).

King Christian X’s Jewish people may never have been forced to wear the yellow star, but his solidarity, courage, and empathy are likely what prevented that unjust mandate to begin with. What could these three qualities do for your students, your school, and your community?

Image credit: the lost gallery

What Happened When I Stopped Teaching History in Chronological Order

“Wait–what?!” That was pretty much the universal response from when I first suggested the idea. But after teaching U.S. history in relentlessly chronological order for a couple of years, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better way. Wouldn’t teaching all the wars in one unit help them better comprehend the nature and cause/effect of war?  Could teaching about the evolution of governing documents–from the Magna Carta to the 27th U.S. Constitutional Amendment–help students better understand the processes of government? And is chronological order really necessary for students to get a clear picture our country’s past–and more importantly, is it the best way to help them apply it to their present and future?

Back to the Drawing Board

So in my third year of teaching fifth grade, our grade level team decided to take a leap and rework our social studies approach. The priority shifted from individual facts and dates to overarching concepts.

As an IB school, 6 units of inquiry were already in place; we revisited the central idea for each one and considered historical concepts that would relate to each other. Below were the results:

  • Unit: Who We are
    • Central Idea: Understanding the similarities & differences of the human experience helps us explain shared humanity.
    • History concepts included: Rights movements (slavery, civil rights, women’s suffrage, child labor, etc.)
  • Unit: Where we are in place & time
    • Central Idea: The evolution of civilizations stems from human relationships & personal journeys.
    • History concepts included: Westward expansion, Industrial Revolution, Great Depression migration
  • Unit: How the world works
    • Central Idea: Scientific discoveries increase humans’ ability to expand.
    • History concepts included: Pivotal inventions that led to the exploration, formation, and expansion of the U.S.
  • Unit: How we organize ourselves
    • Central Idea: Order drives the systems of our world.
    • History concepts included: Study of governing documents, 3 branches of U.S. government
  • Unit: Sharing the planet
    • Central Idea: The world evolves due to the cause and effect of changes.
    • History concepts included: Study of U.S. wars
  • Unit: How we express ourselves (this is the fifth graders’ self-directed exhibition unit at our school)

Unknown Waters

Throughout the implementation process, I remember actively discussing the new approach with my students–I wanted them to know that I did not know how it would work, and that we were seeking answers together. And answers they found! A couple months in, one suggested that we post a timeline in the corner of our classroom, adding dates and pictures of important events as we explored them to help us all put things in context.  Others exclaimed when they realized that we used to teach each war often months apart, instead of studying them side-by-side.

By the end of the year, my students possessed unprecedented historical comprehension. They didn’t just know the names and dates of important wars; they understood the cause-and-effect within and between each one.  They didn’t just memorize the names of the three branches of government; they understood that governing documents and systems are a work in progress in which we all must participate. They didn’t just watch a couple videos about human rights movements; they made in-depth connections about the human experience and our treatment of one another. For our class, the question of teaching history by concept became a resounding YES.

Final Take-Away

It’s important to note that my most valuable learning from this experience did not come from watching my students flourish in concept-driven history (though that was indeed rewarding!). Rather, it was the realization that we must never stop questioning our practices.  Look among the dustiest and most longstanding ones and simply ask yourself why–and remember to take your students on the journey with you!

If you’re interested in other ways to challenge the status quo, check out our post, “What Happened When We Ditched Our Boxed Spiral Review Program (Mountain Math/Language.”

Featured ImageJános Balázs