I would use a combination of approaches that would hopefully present the
issues in a comprehensive manner, but in a way that will enable the
students to arrive at some "aha's" independently. The 2 approaches that I
would incorporate and personalize based on my experience level as a
beginning teacher are: "action-oriented inquiry" and the
interdisciplinary approach. These approaches are both outlined by Don
Krug in the Art & Ecology Curriculum Integration section of ArtsEdNet.
After selecting a life-centered issue or a series of related issues, I
would need to do some pre-teaching research in order to get issue-smart.
I would need to understand how the life-centered issue is relevant locally
as well as globally. During this stage of pre-teaching, it would be
appropriate to contact local members of the community for advice,
expertise, feedback, additional knowledge or experience that may be
gleaned. I may enlist the support of my fellow teachers and brainstorm
with them as to how to best present the issue(s), as well as how I can
incorporate as many other areas of study (such as math, science, social
studies, language arts, writing) as possible. I would focus on using the
issue(s) as a central theme across the various disciplines.
Once I have done my 'homework', then I would be ready to implement the
action-oriented inquiry. I am aware that the more senses that are
involved, the greater the learning, so the first step of action-oriented
inquiry is timely and it involves giving the kids direct experience(s) to
engage in. This could be a field trip or simply a table set up with
specific items arranged on it. Enabling the students to see, hear, taste,
smell, feel, and simply observe would be a good way to introduce my issue.
As the students and I, as teacher, move from this direct experience, we
would engage in a series of discussions to share ideas and observations,
but we would continue to study and observe. Our understanding of the
issue would deepen because I would simultaneously incorporate other
subjects into the central theme, and perhaps they will begin to see the
issue as 'their' issue, thinking about it frequently during the school
day. Perhaps the students would begin to see their issue pop up in their
everyday activities. Taking the students through the critical thinking
stage would yield better results, I think, if the students had begun to
ponder the issue on their own and imagined other angles in 'their mind's
eye'. The last stage of the action-oriented inquiry involves 'taking
action'. This is when the students will really have fun because this is
when they can develop a plan of action that will be their collective
response to the issue.
The plan the students and I implement would have one teacher-imposed
condition: it would need to be an on-going project that would foster
continued reflection and thought. I would send the message out that it is
not the same as a "unit of study" that you walk away from after a few
weeks. Instead, it would engage the students long after the
brain-storming ends. Buster Simpson's baby forest that was planted in an
80 foot long Douglas fir (Host Analog) is a great example of an on-going
plan. Such an activity would present unique problems and on-going
Action-oriented inquiry is a very intriguing strategy because it is said
to be a "continuous, cyclical process and life-long endeavor" and suggests
that we better understand the connections about art and ecology by
plunging ourselves into the environment. I would hope to set the stage
for my students to 'take the plunge' with me.
As always, please feel free to comment.