Thursday, December 3, 2015

Critical Thinking & Organic Gardening

Fair word of warning. The topic I'm about to write about may look like Agriculture but this is actually a lesson in critical thinking and identifying persuasive techniques. So whatever age you are teaching critical thinking, this would work. We just did the virtual field trip, an awkward experience. This was experimental for us, but I think that my family's best use of 45 minutes is not to stare at a screen while gently being brainwashed. Ok, how can we make this a worthwhile learning experience? I would suggest still watching it but know in advance what your plan is. And I would 100% recommend following the December 3rd virtual field trip to Hinton Farms, Dover FL -- which promotes acres and acres of conventional monoculture agriculture -- with The True Cost of Food on Vimeo.

The True Cost of Food from Sierra Club National on Vimeo.

As part of your discussion, I recommend that you look closely at who produced each video: The Nutrients for Life Foundation vs. The Sierra Club.

I love The True Cost of Food and I believe we've even used it in Philosophy in years past.

The Eggs 101: A Video Project video produced by the American Egg Board is also an excellent video for identifying persuasive techniques; here is a blog post from the last time I taught it. See if there is a copy in a library near you! It is also available online, along with the teacher's guide (PDF). This video is great for class discussion. I won't give a video supporting the other side of the egg production business; it would be good for your high schooler to research the opposing viewpoint and visit a family with backyard chickens.

I was really happy to see a Curriculum & Instruction topic on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Monday Nov. 30. ‘Use More Expressive Words!’ Teachers Bark, Beseech, Implore shows the misguided strategies schools are using to try to encourage students to have precision in their thinking.

I'd be curious to hear what the response of homeschooled students is to this article.

Yes, there are charts and lists of what to do and what not to do, and Bloom's Taxonomy and Multiple Intelligence Theory are incredibly helpful, and you can buy books that tell you what to teach in every subject at every grade level, but sometimes I think you just need to relax and spend time with your kids and just TALK to them. I don't have to have a "Common Core aligned" curriculum, with the standard and indicator posted on my chalkboard, to have my family be learning. (Not to mention all the times that a standard and indicator is written on a classroom chalkboard and no learning is taking place. I taught in public school; I know. And I was always on probation because I wasn't teaching the scripted lesson plans the state of Maryland put in my teacher mailbox. That was in the era of MSPAP. Now we are in a new era.) In fact, we had a family discussion the other day which spawned a whole math project. I was telling the girls that, in my travels, when you talk to the person who is sitting next to you on the plane, you meet all kinds of interesting people. And on the airplane, I love to ask people what they do versus what their undergraduate major was. So many times there isn't a match. How can you possibly decide when you're 20, what you think you want to be and do when you grow up, and achieve 100% accuracy?

We decided to call 50 adult family members and friends and ask them a short two question survey. What is or was your profession? What was your major in college? I can't wait to tally the results and see what we get. And we all made predictions in advance, choosing one of these categories -- NONE of the people will have professions which match their undergraduate major, SOME will, HALF will, MOST will, or ALL of the people surveyed will have professions which match their undergraduate major.

As I wrote in my K-W-L-W post, it is asking questions, and encouraging students to ask questions and evaluate what they hear and explore their ideas and ask more questions, that spurs learning.

Some recommendations:

Best most practical book on Multiple Intelligence theory I have found.

Critical Thinking Wheel by Mentoring Minds.
Hang this in your classroom; it is fantastic! $8.95 well spent.

BEST book on the hunter brain versus the farmer brain and invaluable to any teacher... recommends Waldorf education and focuses on ADHD as an asset!

If you choose a traditional scope & sequence, this book IS YOUR GUIDE for curric. design. Clear and simple, practical and straight-forward.

I really like that she included study skills as an area of the curriculum.

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