During each project, we ask an expert to come in or we go visit them in their work place. We pick these experts very carefully and we talk to them about project work so they are prepared for what we will be doing, asking, and participating in when we are with them. We begin the process of finding an expert by asking our families first! Often times the best expert or connection is made through our families!! As we start a project, we start to think of possibilities or avenues we can go down to find an expert or a place to visit. This is unlike the “traditional” field trip that is seen in the upper elementary schools. We prepare the expert by offering them the questions we have created, tell them about what our children have already learned and their age group, offer them an overview of project work, and what a typical expert visit looks like. This would include explaining that we want the children to ask questions, create sketches of their materials, and use child friendly language. We ask the expert to join us in the traditional clothing of the specific job if possible.
Brad was a parent of one of our children. He had gone to school to study horticulture and was excited and willingly to share his knowledge! He began by introducing himself and telling children about his passion. He then began to answer questions of the children. We helped get the children started by going over our web of questions that we had prepared previously. The children then began to be more comfortable and started to ask more questions! We asked each question off the web and the answer was documented directly off the web. Brad was apprehensive to bring in his tools as they were dangerous for our age group. He decided to sketch a picture of each of the tools he used based on the children’s questions. Typically, we would ask the “expert” to bring in any clothing and items that he would use to perform his job. We would then take the opportunity to sketch the items that the expert brought in.
With two teachers in the room, Kara and I split up tasks during this time. We are supporting children by using tracking statements to support their learning , encouraging children by talking about what they see, helping children label or document their thoughts, and taking TONS of pictures. Often times, we like to video a speaker so we can return to the information later. When Kara and I are photographing, we are making sure to photograph picture of the children engaged in their work, taking pictures of the actual objects being shown (vest, sheers, saw), and the speaker. We are then able to go back to these pictures to create more sketching, label the items in the pictures, and to form representations of the objects that we had seen with materials in our treasure chest.
In Brad’s visit, he began with introducing himself. He then answered all of our questions from our question web. As the children took in his information and thought of more questions, he spent some time sharing what he had brought. He also showed us several pictures of trees including Evergreen Trees, Oak Trees, and Maple Trees. He also showed us the biggest trees in the United States, different types of pine cones, and drew us pictures of the tools he used.
Later that day, we spent time going over each question that we had on our web and answering based on our interview of our expert. Several children spent time making representations from his visit including sketches, labeled drawings, and three-dimensional representations made in clay, with recycled materials, and in model magic.
In a classroom setting or a home-school setting, taking time to visit the expert or the facility in which you are studying is important! It offers children the opportunity and empowers the children to ask questions and learn! They are able to take a front seat to their learning which as an adult, I learn so much more when I am in the driver’s seat and not stuck along for the ride!
Enjoy the ride!