An inquiry provocation is meant to help us stretch our thinking beyond what we normally consider. It’s designed to plant the kind of seed that, as it grows, inspires us to continue reconsidering and rethinking the world around us. We learn to ask more thoughtful questions, make connections to existing understandings, and develop consideration and empathy for others.
Thus, this week’s provocation on how people get their food isn’t just about food. It’s about getting us to consider broader concepts (including, but not limited to, PYP units of inquiry such as How the World Works, How We Organize Ourselves, and Who We Are). I would love to hear if/how you use these resources with your class!
#1 of 3: Atlas of Beauty image
Mihaela Noroc is a Romanian photographer who travels the world with the goal to capture beauty in all countries. Below is a recent photo of a woman doing her grocery shopping in Myanmar.
#2 of 3: What I Eat, Around the World in 80 Diets
Photojournalist Peter Menzel documented what individuals around the world eat each day. See here for several of his photos along with the fascinating stories of each person.
#3 of 3: Amazon Go Concept
Amazon has developed a smart store that allows shoppers to grab their groceries and go without standing in line for payment. According to Futurism, “The store is powered by sensors, deep learning artificial intelligence (AI), and computer vision, which allows it to detect which items a customer has selected and even when products are returned to shelves.”
How do people eat differently?
Why do people eat differently?
What do people’s eating habits tell us about their lives?
How is the way people get their food changing over time? Why?
Why is it important for us to consider how people eat differently around the world?
Being more spatially-challenged in general, I always had trouble as a child comprehending concepts like mirror images, rotations, and geometry nets.
Fortunately, as a grew older, I learned that these are all just facets of broader concepts of scale and perspective. I’ve also benefited by recognizing their applications beyond mathematics–from art to city planning to interpersonal relationships.
So this week consists of a provocation to help our young learners begin with the big picture of scale and perspective, hopefully encouraging them to draw their own connections and conclusions.
The first is a fascinating video that lays out the entire history of the earth on a football field.
The second is a photo series by artist Matthew Albanese. He creates stunningly realistic landscapes using forced perspective, using materials from nutmeg to steel wool to fake fog. Head over to his site to view the collection of images, along with the incredible behind-the-scenes images and information on his process.
How do people use scale and perspective to help us see “the big picture?”
How does technology allow us new possibilities to show scale and perspective?
How do scale and perspective change the way we see the world?
What is our responsibility to use perspective in our lives?
How are scale and perspective connected?
How does perspective help us understand other people?
“The aim of all IB programmes is to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful world.”
While I taught at an IB (International Baccalaureate) we were encouraged to cultivate the 10 traits defined within the Learner Profile (inquirer, knowledgeable, thinker, communicator, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-taker, balanced, reflective).
This week’s provocation (appropriate for upper elementary and older) will look particularly at the open-minded quality. When I think of open-mindedness, cultural perspective readily comes to mind.
The first resource is one I’ve shared with my fifth graders in the past, and has made for some fascinating conversation. Graphic artist Yang Liu’s East Meets West helps students start to consider how our cultural differences influence the way people approach various situations (click link above for more of her images).
The second is the awe-inspiring story of Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim American who was shot in the aftermath of 9/11, but who worked to save his assailant from death row. I particularly appreciate how this illustrates that whatever our differences, compassion can bring us unity, understanding, and healing.
How is open-mindedness related to cultures?
What is our responsibility for open-mindedness?
How does open-mindedness help with fearfulness (or other negative emotions)?
Elena Aguilar (@artofcoaching1) recently shared this beautiful quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
These words turn my mind to all the spheres of my life, past and present. What is the ship? What is the sea?
When I look at my children, the ship-building vision comes readily: raising healthy, happy, and competent individuals. It’s why I require them to wear clean underwear, to eat vegetables, to brush their teeth, to say ‘sorry.’
When I recall my 5th graders, a similar ship comes to mind: self-aware and self-driven people who can drive their personal learning and growth. It’s why I asked them to write in complete sentences, to reflect with peers, to study out evidence for thinking, to keep track of goals.
I find it interesting how easily these tasks and expectations quickly slip from being part of grander vision, down to dreary repetition. In isolation, no one much wants to do any of those things. But when we elevate our sights to that “vast and endless sea,” our days change. A few ideas come to mind when I consider how we can help our children and students catch the vision of the sea, not only for their futures, but for their present daily experiences:
Constantly ask why, and help them to do the same. It’s tough because there is always so much to do in a perpetually tight schedule, but it’s worth the effort to slow down. Ensure students aren’t just “getting it done” so we can get it done. I admire the way Katherine Hansen brings the why into a simple yet effective place in her classroom:
Let them experience natural consequences. This is not really about “tough love,” grades, or getting them to see how correct we are in our requests for them to perform the daily tasks. It’s about helping them gradually discover the need for these tasks and skills independently. And it requires a lot of metacognition instruction on our part to help them think more about their thinking process so they can identify what is going wrong and what is going right.
Cultivate ownership, choice, and voice. Yes, they still have to wear clean underwear and write in complete sentences. But when we give our kids as many choices as possible and let them in on the learning plan, it makes a tremendous difference in their ability to see beyond the mundane daily to-do list. Check out this fantastic example of student agency by Charlotte Hills.
If we’re not careful, life can become like one long series of “gathering wood, dividing the work, and giving orders.” Elevate the vision. Seek the inspiration. And help all those around you to also “yearn for the vast and endless sea.”
I would love to hear more ideas for ways you help your students elevate their vision! Please share in the comments!
This is part of a series of inquiry-based provocations for essential elements of the PYP. For more, click here.
A while back, I shared a provocation to support one of the IB Primary Years Programme Units known as Who We Are. This week, I want to share one that can be used with How We Organize Ourselves. Take a look at this fascinating video to find out how the US went about the problem of an exponentially growing volume of mail.
How are problem-solving and organization connected?
How did the zip-code solution change over time?
How might future zip code solutions impact people?
Why do we keep changing the way we organize systems?
What is our responsibility to keep changing the way we organize systems?
So embedded are our own culture’s idiosyncrasies that we generally take them for granted. This is particularly true when it comes to our idioms. That’s why, when I came across this list of 40 idioms that don’t translate on TED-Ed, I just knew it would make an intriguing provocation.
Other resources for students inquiring into language might include this animated map of “how Indo-European languages may have evolved:”
Or this video, also from TED-Ed on how our languages evolve (might be a little complex for younger students, but you never know…):
Why do humans use figurative language?
How do you think idioms from certain countries are related to the way of life in that country?
How does language diversity affect our world?
How are human beings connected through language even when we speak different words?
How does becoming more fluent (readers and writers) in our own language help us? How does studying other languages help us?