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Observations and Interpretations 9/28/09

Brie Stark's picture
Observations and Interpretations

Week of September 28, 2009; Brielle Stark


Project: Gardening

Note: Different aged subject group (younger).  This was purely observational, no questions asked of subjects.


Initial thoughts with Instructor

  • Instructor described how the students tended to steer away from vocabulary revolving around texture, taste or smell; they were more likely to describe things in terms of color and shape.
  • The subjects tended to be very observational in manner, especially engaging their hands while observing.
  • The instructor uses plants and gardening as an evaluation point and an inquiry method
    • "See what they learn through talking/conversation" is a great way to gauge depth of knowledge
    • "Must be interested to follow-up" especially when in inquiry lessons; must engage that interest and generate genuine curiosity
    • The instructor writes down main talking points that the subjects say, using them to evaluate their observations: what do they include in the observations?  Can they draw the plants?  Can they get their ideas across?  How do they get their ideas across?  Are they interested in the subject?
      • Instructor writes down these talking points so that he can learn more: about what they understand, what he can help them to understand, their their perspective is and how he can learn from them.

Interaction with Subjects

  • The instructor was constantly interacting with the subjects, mostly asking them questions.  Below are a few examples of questions and answers (from the subjects), which I've highlighted in blue.
    • "When I say garden..."
      • Plants; flowers; vegetables; green leaves; worms; fluff on stems; dirt
    • "We pulled out the plants and found..."
      • Roots (what color? brown, grey, hair color); white and squiggly roots; green stems; wet dirt
    • "What part do we eat?"
      • The eating part (what's that?  Show me!)
      • Subjects were instructed to bring back two different types of things that were edible and asked to describe how they were different.  Several answers included: had holes; different colors; different shapes; wet inside; juicy; squishy; soft; has seeds
    • "In the flower, what do you see?"
      • Pollen; seeds
    • "How can we tell things apart?"
      • Instructor demonstrates tasting, smelling and looking (color, holes)
    • "This didn't bud.  What happened?"
      • Instructor mentioned that the weather might have had an effect.
    • "How do we dispose of plants?"
      • By composting!  (Subjects had talked about this in a previous lesson).


  • Instructor was constantly engaged with the students and always probing for more information about their answers to create a dialogue
  • Instructor creates a fluid model of incorporating the name of something as he describes it -- not to make the subjects memorize the name, but to create an associate response.  His goal is to keep the interest on the observation and not as much on the name because he wants them to learn the content through observation.
    • The subjects tended to repeat the names that he did offer, almost as an immediate response.  It wasn't a repeating mechanism directed toward the group, but rather, individually.
  • At certain times, the children would know what a plant was without having to be prompted about it.  The instructor asked why a plant didn't bud, and one of the subjects said, "but I know it's broccoli."
  • The instructor often described what things looked like and let the subjects come to their own conclusions about the observations he had made.


I found the instructor to be very enthusiastic about what he taught and about improving his teaching.  He was very interactive with the subjects and the subjects were constantly engaged with him.  When the subjects attention spans grew shorter, the instructor often changed subjects and kept their attention.  I thought that his overall interpretation of inquiry was a inquiry with a constructive backing, meaning that he found it very important that content be incorporated into the inquiry lesson.  This is comparative to other forms of inquiry that I've seen, like completely open inquiry with no specific goal in mind.  The instructor later discussed the importance of having a goal with these kinds of lessons.  I see his point, in that having a goal is beneficial, but I also see how having too concrete a goal could detract from the overall intrigue that his type of lesson provides.  He does a good job in not stepping over into the area of concreting a goal; he keeps his goal pretty loose because he understands that his subjects, who are young, may not necessarily come upon the goal the way that he envisions it.


Disclaimer: I have no previous affiliation with the workings of the school, and my writings reflect my own observation of events that occur and are not suggesting concrete fact.  If you have questions, please email me at