Exploring outdoor environments and rousing children's desire to learn

Spring is in the air and ICS Grade 1 students spent a recent, sunny morning discovering, exploring, and ideating on local public spaces, as part of their Social Studies curriculum.

In the Grade 1 How we Organise Ourselves Unit, an early unit of study in the Primary Years Programme (PYP), students took part in field trips to particular sites and venues where they could identify and describe the functions of public and private spaces. The programme encompassed an inquiry into the interconnectedness of human-made systems and communities, the structure and function of organisations, as well as societal decision-making, economic activities and their impact on humankind and the environment.Grade 1 How we organise ourselves China Garden field trip

Upon disembarking from the shuttle busses, the students are organised in small groups, as this aids in fostering concentration and allows for more discussion opportunities. One of the subgroups is led by an English as an Additional Language (EAL) teacher, as these children are at the beginning of their journey in learning English. 

Initial observations are deliberated, such as what objects do you see here? and what are the different shapes that are seen here? The children’s responses included, benches, trees and lawn, boats, lampposts, rubbish bins, people. This is followed by tallying the number of benches and what animals are seen. Observing the area’s large expanse of lawn, the teacher inquires as to “What kind of activities could you enjoy here?” The students respond with “play tag;” “do sports” and a sundry. When one of the youngsters asked why a scooter was situated adjacent, a discussion regarding objects versus activities ensued. 

The subject of a space being a natural environment or human made is posed to the children; to which they answered, “human made.” And the differences between natural environments and human made (or built) environments were reviewed. Then the teacher inquires, as to activities and the children answer more questions along the lines of what the space is well-suited for – relaxing, picnicking? Swimming in the lake during summer - fishing in the lake? One youngster proposes, “They can go fishing with the boat.” The signs on a nearby post and how these are helpful were noted. A student remarked that the signs are by the lamp so “you can see them when it is dark.”

The Action segment of the unit highlights suggestions and acting on improving a public space (at school) to help create a sense of community; and what can we do to change a public space. Hence, the question “What could make the space better?” is brainstormed by the youngsters. They adeptly formulate and ask questions about places – a central element of the Social Studies unit.

In conclusion, a teacher asks Do you think it is a good public space and why? To this, the youngsters chime in “Good” and one of the students stated that she likes the summertime amenities such as an ice cream shop onsite. Another student assesses the play-area space as “just okay in winter” because “it can get covered in snow.” Another child proclaims, "It’s a good place with lots of different things to do, and it’s free.”

The teacher posits, that the site provides a diverse number of activities, and asks the students to think about the other spaces they have visited recently for comparing and contrasting. Several responses are given, such as an outdoor and public space; playground; access to food; that one does not have to pay to visit; and, that there are buildings in the immediate vicinity.

What was thought to be different were that, according to the children: “The lake is quite different,” and that “This is bigger than the other places.” “The China Garden,” responded another, and that more people are present onsite.

The promenade that winds its way along the lakeshore affords superb viewing spots for examining flora and fauna as well as historic structures. For example, the Zurichhorn Limnigraph on the quay, reports on the maximum, mean and minimum values of the lake levels here on Lake Zurich, and has been measured at this location since 1938 the group notes. And a garden wall featuring a bas-relief of cherubs and various Greco-Roman type figures is up next for viewing.Grade 1_China Garden field trip

The study of the distinctive features that give a place its identity, and the human and natural environments is a core segment in Grade 1 Social Studies learning. Prior to the children enjoying their snacks at break time, they inspect a nearby tree that features a hollow in its trunk. The students deliberate what type of critter may have used this as a nesting or roost site - harnessing children’s natural curiosity and inquisitiveness.

Prospective parents interested in discovering more about our school’s mission and the Primary Years IB Programme (PYP), for children aged 3 - 12, are welcome to attend our Open House on 31 March 2022. Hosted webinar-style, attendees will be treated to a virtual tour exploring our campus learning environments, academic and recreational facilities and more. Of special note, guests will be able to direct questions to school leadership and faculty, in one session. Please register here asap to reserve your spot at our virtual Open House. 

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