There’s a lot about this Fall that feels particularly heavy. We started the year remotely. Now, we only see half of our students at a time, the other half on Zoom.. We’re staring at many black boxes on the Zoom screen. We promised students an experiential English class, and yet we can’t play games, we can’t traverse the high and low ropes course….we can’t even get in a circle. There’s also that sneaky chill in the air reminding us that soon Michigan’s winter will set in.
Yet in spite of it all, there is plenty to be grateful for right now: we get to co-teach a class that is dedicated to personal growth, building community, and global studies. We get the freedom to create experiences for our inquisitive students. And nothing…we mean nothing beats Fall in Michigan.
We co-teach a class called Global Studies. This course explores the contemporary issues of the world and students’ place in said world. It is an interdisciplinary, team-taught course that builds group problem-solving skills and, at the same time, challenges students to overcome perceived personal fears and limitations. The vehicles for these changes include the low– and high-ropes initiatives on our District’s ropes course. Students develop an understanding of the historical, literary, political, cultural, and financial impact of social injustice on those directly or indirectly involved, and the continued impact that can be seen in our modern society. The course ends with a heavy focus on altruism and action. Within this class, we play, read, write, debate, challenge, and overall try to create “explorers of the world.”
A glimpse into our class, pre-Covid:
One resource we use as a part of our class is Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World. The lesson we are sharing today was inspired by one of the explorations in this book.
First, we handed students an egg carton and told them “We’re going on an adventure!” We told them that this adventure was a “Nature Treasure Hunt,” and they were to observe closely and collect any treasures they found along the way (natural or unnatural). We’ve done this activity at our District’s farm in year’s past, but for this year, we just headed to a tree-lined road that runs behind the school. Part of the magic was leaving our classroom space. Students were able to breathe (6 feet apart), feel the sun on their faces, and they talked more than they have all year.
When we returned to the classroom, we laid out all of the egg cartons on a table. Students did some “drive by” observations to keep us socially distanced. We asked them to look for patterns.
To debrief, we asked the following questions:
- What patterns do you notice?
- What connections might you make?
- What differences are there?
Some examples of patterns or connections included hard and soft, dead and alive, natural and man-made, colorful and dull, etc.
Next, we told students to focus on one or two objects and had them continue looking at that object as we asked: Why is it drawing your eye? What alternative/creative name could you give it? How might you use that object as a metaphor for something bigger? What else does this make you think about?
Finally, we launched them into some writing in their notebooks. The directions were simple: write creatively about any of the found objects (or even the experience of the treasure hunt itself). This is a chance for you to really play around in your writing!
Here are a few of their poems that they shared on our Padlet at the end of the day:
Overall, there was a lightness to the day that we hadn’t yet felt this year. It was a reminder that there’s a lot of beauty in this world- both in the world around us and in the poetry within us.
Liza Lauter and Nicole Lowry are teachers at Bloomfield Hills High School in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Liza teaches AP Literature, Modern Literature and Global Studies and is a K-12 ELA Teacher Leader. Nicole teaches Film Studies, Global Studies, and teaches in the Media Pathways program. When they aren’t scaling treetops, they are playing with their kids, reading books, trying new foods, and figuring out ways to go on new adventures!