Authentic Contexts for Learning

One of the key elements of inquiry-based learning at the Calgary Science School is embedding student work into authentic contexts. Our teachers spend a great deal of time designing work that bridges the program of studies and the ‘real world.’ This notion comes to us from our work with the Galileo Educational Network and their Inquiry Rubric.

One such context at our school this year is a community garden. We applied for healthy living grant back in the spring – and we were awarded the funding necessary to begin a community garden on our school site.
In addition to all the great hands-on experiences our teachers and students will have through building, planting and maintaining the garden, this project also creates a context for students to be involved in the design and planning stage. And one group of grade 7 students has taken up this challenge.
Working over the last month, the design of the garden has been turned over to students In planning the layout of the garden, the grade 7 teacher (Carolyn Armstrong) has her students all working on different aspects of the project. As we do a quick walk around this classroom, you see students working on tasks including:
  • creating PPT presentations on the garden (to be used in community discussions)
  • designing the layout on grid paper (using proper scale)
  • designing the layout with 3D models (using cardboard)
  • designing the layout using Google Sketchup
  • placing the layout (to scale) on our school site, using Google Earth
  • calculating a budget for the garden
  • researching decorative rock work (including calling for prices and calculating weight)
  • sifting and calculating gravel amounts
  • determining supply amounts and costs
  • maximizing the use of posts for structural integrity
Now that the students have become engaged in the design on the project, Carolyn is able to embed some of her math curriculum into the garden. Here’s some of the math problems the students are currently wrestling with:
Other examples of math in context:
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