Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Classroom Without Walls-Thanks to the Magic School Bus

As child growing up, I was usually glued to the television show The Magic School Bus.  In the show, Ms Frizzle doesn't just tell her students how the world works, she shows them by hopping on the Magic School Bus and taking them on incredible adventures.  Here is a clip of one of the episodes;

The Magic School Bus is based on Experiential Learning. This "learn by doing" philosophy can be a highly effective teaching methodology, especially if it involves taking students to places beyond the walls of the classroom. Having taught at several schools with extensive outdoor education components embedded in their physical education program, I have always enjoyed the multitude of benefits that Experiential Learning can avail.  Students are able to have the opportunity for immediate application of classroom knowledge through active learning outside of the classroom.  The result can be greater student engagement and motivation. 

Yet, many schools are not structured  for such a learning style.  In some cases, a rigid schedule whereby students have a set timetable with math period 1, science period 2, history period 3, and so on...does not give teachers amply time to journey outside of the school or classroom.  If only they had the power of Ms Frizzle and her Magic School Bus. 

This year, I was given just such a gift.  Our school has a 21 passenger "Magic" school bus.  This summer I wrote my class 4 drivers test so that I, like Ms Frizzle, am able to take my science students on short adventures around the city and be back in time for their next class. 

One of our first trips was to a local man-made wetland only a few minutes from the school.  Students were able to take pictures of abiotic and biotic interactions and record sounds of the wetland.  We took water quality tests and will blog about our experience once back at the school.  Then, we will revisit this wetland in the winter and spring to inquire how they are similar and different.

Since I am a strong advocate of Experiential Learning, I plan on using the "Magic" school bus several times this year to learn by seeing and doing.  Here are some of my possible trips (all within a one to two our visit):
1.  A visit to our Cancer Centre when we study about cells to learn how they diagnose and treat cancer cells.
2.  A visit to a local grocery store, Safeway, when we study about heat and temperature to learn about how they control heat to work with food storage and preparation.
3.  A visit to several ponds around the school to compare water quality.
4.  A visit to the local animal shelter to learn (and maybe volunteer) about how to treat animals with sickness and diseases.
5.  A visit to a local ice rink to learn about the science behind ice making for our unit on heat and temperature.
6. A visit to a greenhouse to learn about different varieties of plants and how to take care of them.
7.  A visit to our local ski hill to learn about the science behind snow making.
8.  A visit to our local mall to find out how they use solar power to power the mall.
9.  A visit to a large restaurant to talk to the chef and learn about safe food handling procedures to prevent the growth of micro-organisms.
10.  A visit to a heavy machinery business to learn about how hydraulics work for our unit on simple machines.

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