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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Making My Class A "Killer"

Since the start of the school year we have been learning bits and pieces of Geography.  Things like country location, water forms, land features, environmental issues, population distribution (where do people live and why), unequal distribution of resources (the earth's not fair), ethnic groups, religions of the world, and other things.

I said in class today that I like to teach like a TV show.  There is a murder in the first 30 seconds of the show, then there are clues during the show, that if you pay attention will provide you with enough information to find the killer.

In class, students have been given numerous pieces of information, facts, and stories.  We are nearing the end of the Geography program.  We are about to put all the videos, maps, charts, tables, stories, and discussions together to answer what the state of Georgia calls "Essential Questions."  [NOTE: I've never liked this term for at least two reasons: a) the questions are really statements turned into contrived questions, and the questions are not really essential to life, just for a test.  We have tackled much more essential questions than the ones provided.]

So, here are the state Essential Questions we put in our notebooks today.

The student will discuss environmental issues across the continent of Africa.

  • What is the impact of water pollution and the unequal distribution of water on irrigation, trade, industry, and drinking water?
  • How do poor soil and deforestation distress Sub-Saharan Africa?
  • What is the impact of desertification on the environment of Africa from the Sahel to the rainforest? 
  • The water in Africa has polluted and that leads to negative consequences for drinking.  What are these problems?
  • The water in Africa is not available to everyone (or every country) equally.  Some have more than others.  How does the lack of waterways make business more difficult for some countries and people?
  • Since water is polluted and not always available, how does that affect irrigation (creating pipelines, trenches or ditches from major rivers) of crops for families and countries?  Why is famine a problem in parts of Africa?
  • Why is the soil bad in the Sahel (Sub-Sahara Africa)?
  • How does deforestation make the soil even worse?
  • What happens when the desert grows over the areas that once were used for farming and grazing?
  • Where do the people move when the desert takes over their land?
  • Why is the rain forest affected when the people move in?
These questions are important, but not what I would consider "essential" for anything other than a basic understanding of life in parts of Africa.  Here are my "essential questions" for Africa's environmental issues:
  • What COULD happen as there is less and less land but more and more people in Africa? 
    • What has happened in the recent past when ethnic groups, religious groups, and tribes have been forced to share land and water?
  • Which is a better solution to the health issues created from biologically polluted waters of Africa: finding a cure? or preventing the disease?
  • Knowing the diseases like guinea worm and podoconiosis are preventable if people simply had sanitation (filtering systems) and shoes (instead of sandals or nothing), what could you do to make a difference for the people there?  What will you do?  What should you do? What can our class/school do? 
  • Malaria is a bigger problem, but there are things that we can do to help.  How can a person use a social network to get others to help and should they use their networks to do such things?
  • Knowing what you now know, how will your life be different than it used to be?
  • For nearly all of us, we were unaware of these problems; yet we knew many details about Jon & Kate + 8.  Why does the U.S. media not report this information?
So there's day 1 in beginning the organize our clues into a meaningful adventure.  More tomorrow, and the rest of the week.

Posted via email from rrmurry's posterous


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