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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Science and a Sense of Place

(July 24-August 4, 2006)

Session One: Welcome!

What are you looking at?

Can you tell, from looking at this, what it is?

(According to wikipedia,
cairns are non-naturally occurring pile of stones,
erected in uplands, on moors or on mountain tops,
to mark burial sites, memorialize the dead,
commemorate an event, mark the summit of a mountain,
or indicate a path across barren terrain.)

Can you tell, from looking at these pictures, where this cairn is located?

The story of Radnor Township's "placing itself
on the map" with a Welsh cairn....

The Cairn

When I think of the little children learning
In all the schools of the world,
Learning in Danish, learning in Japanese
That two and two are four, and where the rivers of the world
Rise, and the names of the mountains and the principal cities,
My heart breaks.
Come up, children! Toss your little stones gaily
On the great cairn of Knowledge!
(Where lies what Euclid knew, a little grey stone,
What Plato, what Pascal, what Galileo:
Little grey stones, little grey stones on a cairn.)
Tell me, what is the name of the highest mountain?
Name me a crater of fire! a peak of snow!
Name me the mountains on the moon!
But the name of the mountain that you climb all day,
Ask not your teacher that.

--Edna St Vincent Millay

From Cordelia's Poetry Collection Page

I. Introduction:
doing science "with a sense of place" will raise questions
  • about what it means to "do science"
    (cf. the traditional ideal: Thomas Nagel on "the view from nowhere,"
    with developing an awareness of one's own particular location...)
  • about the environment
  • about culture
  • about economics, and race, and social justice....
    (for example: what does it mean to be bused out of your neighborhood?
    what does it mean to be kept in it?)


"The earth is round. The challenge of any world map
is to represent a round earth on a flat surface.
There are literally thousands of map projections.
Each has certain strengths and corresponding weaknesses.
Choosing among them is an exercise in values clarification:
you have to decide what's important to you."

II. Let's try it out: placing ourselves

  • draw a map locating yourself in the world

  • use your map to introduce yourself to us: where are you from?

  • compare maps: what were our different points of reference?

  • what various reference frames did we draw on?

  • did we omit anything important?

  • what do our maps say about how we understand the world?

  • what reference frames make the most sense to your students?

  • how might you be able to enlarge their sense of place?

  • pair up w/ someone located differently, to co-construct a new map of the world:
    how can you connect your different reference frames?

This is the Surrealist "Map of the World," 1929.

"In this map, the Pacific Ocean is central,
the United States does not exist....
Mexico, Russia, Alaska, China, and Labrador
have strong representations."

Coffee Break

III. coursekeeping
  • logistics: daily/weekly schedule review/parking/sign-ins, etc.

  • final performances, situating yourself in relation to the material
    (both content and process of teaching it)
    • during the second week of the institute
      make a document outlining a curriculum or lesson plan you've
      imagined for your classroom, "doing science with a sense of place"
    • on our last day,
      perform that curriculum in 10 minutes (or less)
      as a mock lesson, a teacher's workshop, or...?
    • by September 1,
      put together a written proposal for educational supplies
      and materials to put that curriculum into practice.

Mollweide Projection,
(aka an elliptical projection or
homolographic equal-area projection).

IV. Enlarging our map of the world
  • what did you learn, from drawing and re-drawing your maps?

  • who's happy where?
    using a local map of the Bryn Mawr campus,
    find five locations and answer six questions


So...who was happy where?

What influences the choices plants and people make about where they settle long-term?

V. Exploring the Global: "Where Do Humans Congregate?" So: what have you learned (so far)?

How might you use any of this in your own classroom?

From Anne's trip to Iceland:
a rod recording the rate @ which the North American
and European plates are moving apart

VI. dual conception of the Institute: localizing, not parochializing

  • Randal Holly, last summer's institute:
    "What aspects of their world do our kids care about?
    What would it distress them to lose? (Anything made of marble...??)
    Can we use that as an incentive to learn?"

  • Gregory Smith, "Learning to be Where we Are":
    place-based learning is grounded in local phenomena
    & students' lived experience

    schools direct students' attention away from their own circumstances/ways of knowing
    learning comes from texts, lectures, videos, not full-bodied encounters w/ the world
    experience is mediated; education is internalizing/mastering others' knowledge

    John Dewey: great waste in isolation of school from
    child's experience outside it/in home/neighborhood

    disconnection exacerbated by national preoccupation w/
    standardized test scores (=generic curricular models)
    dropouts: don't accept teachers' account of what counts as valuable knowledge

    real-world problem solving, deeply grounded in particular places
    learning that environmental problems can't be solved in isolation
    (see "An Inconvenient Truth"!)
    start w/ the local, enlarge beyond it to regional, national, international

    Uruguayan modernist Joaquín Torres-García,
    The Upside-down Map (1943).

    "A centerpiece in the history of Latin American efforts
    at reclaiming themselves in a world vision.
    Torres-García placed the South Pole at the top of the earth,
    thereby suggesting a visual affirmation of the
    importance of the continent, and in an effort to
    present a pure revision of the world. He was also
    interested in presenting to the world a
    modern "school of the south..."

  • David Gruenewald, "A Critical Pedagogy of Place"
    ed'l concern for local place overshadowed by discourse of economic competitiveness
    current educational reforms are "placeless":
    to compete in global economy, they seek to
    standardize the experience of students fr. diverse places

    they dismiss the idea of place as a primary experiential/educational context
    to focus on learning technologies in classrooms
    limits/devalues/distorts local geographical experience
    how to use education to promote the well-being of places?
    how can we get beyond the limits of the classroom
    to interrogate the places outside of school?
    how can we expand the school experience
    to the socio-ecological places "just beyond the classroom"?
    what needs conserving/transforming in those places?

    place foregrounds local, regional politics,
    attuned to particularities of where people live
    place-based ed emphasizes rural ecology, not urban life
    what's a pedagogy of place look like in the city?
    how can we highlight the interactions between cultures and ecosystems?
    locus of environmental care will shift, depending on social/geographical position
    how to help get our kids to learn and care about/
    for the places where they live-and-work-and-play?
    what is the role of children's "special places" (forts, dens...)?

    how can we use mapping to broaden their view of the world?
    can we re-think the classroom as fundamental site of teaching/learning?
    can we re-define achievement in terms of the
    social/ecological quality of community life?
    can we replace quantitative paper-and-pencil outcomes,
    which are earned @ the expense of what it means to "live well"?

  • Nora Newcombe, "A Plea for Spatial Literacy"
    the challenge of spatial thinking (mapping routes and relationships:
    problems in logic, distribution of variables--
    i.e. John Snow's locating cholera in one contaminated water pump;
    Watson and Crick fitting known facts to he double helix,
    a 3D model of structure of DNA;
    geoscience; engineering; neurosurgery)
    is spatial thinking a particular challenge for women/lower-income/
    any particular group of people?
    (think of gender differences in map-making/route-finding....)

  • each guest facilitator will share her own frame of reference w/ you,
    show you how they do this,
    invite you to design something similar for your own classroom
    (and the place surrounding it!)

  • all day tomorrow: Liz McCormack (Physics), on "The Cosmology of Space"

    VII. Before you go:
    post in the forum what you found useful from today's session:
    what can you apply to your own classroom?
    what questions about application do you have,
    that you'd like us to address?

    VII. as finale/inspiration:

    Ava Blitz, "Beauty and the Beast,"
    Artwork @ Appel Farm