Not the most inviting of titles but a subject which has gripped my children. As we near the end of the second week of a six-week term I thought I would write more specifically about the projects the children have chosen to do. I am so incredibly excited about our new ‘project based’ status! My school planning has decreased in spades and the children are producing far more superior work than I could have encouraged them to do. Oh, and I still get the fun of sourcing products for their chosen projects.
I already had a small collection of resources for learning about the plague, mostly books which we had read last term:
I also had a few websites to share which I emailed to the children (I’ll share at the end of the post). In my own reading I had tried to come up with a main question which was broad enough to leave flexibility for the children’s different takes and yet narrow enough that it helped them to focus rather than feeling overwhelmed.
My main question was:
Discover what could have been done to limit the spread of the plague.
The reason I chose this was because I felt in order to answer it the children would need to look into how the plague originated, how it was spread, how they attempted to contain it in the middle ages and the best ways of containing it with today’s understanding of bacterial infections.
Presenting the material
Apart from the obvious goal of learning, one of the main elements of project based schooling is the presence of a real reason for learning – this often comes in the form of a presentation, or sharing of information with someone, the community even. If a child sees a benefit in what they do then it encourages them to see the project through to its completion. The children, including A5, will have the opportunity to present their findings to a couple of our good friends who have agreed to be an audience. These presentations won’t be as big or magnificent as the medieval feast ones but will give them a goal to work towards and a culmination point for all their hard work. Also, I personally find them helpful as a stop point for any given topic, without which I would go on and on and on….
T had considered learning animation, but after spending the first week looking into it he decided six weeks wouldn’t be long enough to master it and produce the effect he wanted. I suggested he did another film. My reason for this was to encourage him to improve upon his last film. His eyes lit up! I think he thought he had to choose something different, but I reassured him he could do whatever floats his boat, and he could do it multiple times if he wished.
So he has chosen to write a debate between a doctor of medieval times and a doctor of today. They will discuss how to prevent the spread of the plague, ultimately comparing the scientific knowledge of today with the understanding of the plague during the middle ages. He has spent much time watching debates in the houses of parliaments, and whilst his won’t be exactly the same, he has attempted to reproduce the humour and back stabbing which occurs! He will then film the debate, paying particular attention to the audio and lighting qualities.
I thoroughly enjoy watching T when something has caught his attention. He has been sourcing white muslin to use instead of the darker back drops he used in his last film. He is hoping this will be an inexpensive method of increasing the light without the need to buy expensive lighting equipment. He has also sourced some inexpensive microphones which will work with his camera and hopefully improve upon the overall quality of sound.
His presentation will again be based around his film.
He woke me this morning rambling about some bright idea of a home school film club. When I was compos mentis an hour or so later I thought it over and am quite excited about the possibility. We’ll see, but T is a man of action and if anyone can organise a film club it would be him.
L has chosen to look at the plague from the point of view of a surgeon around at the time. In fact she has researched an actual doctor (Guy de Chauliac) and is planning on writing a semi-fictional diary based on his work. She will make the lotions and potions she describes. Her end goal is to be able to demonstrate their usage at her presentation. Her diary will be made into a book which she hopes to give out to the people who attend the presentation.
She has already been in the kitchen (of course) to make some faecal matter, because, she informs me, it needs to be rock hard by the time six weeks is up. Nice.
C has completely taken on board my advice to keep it as simple as possible and concentrate on her strengths. In her last project she required a lot of help from me and I felt she didn’t gain all her brother and sister did from their more independent projects. I really wanted this project to be a success for her, for her to enjoy it and most importantly for her to feel it was her work she was presented rather than partially mine.
She came up with the fabulous idea of making a scrap-book with a double page focusing on the day in a life of animals or people around at the time of the plague, culminating in a newspaper report of how the spread of the plague could be prevented or at least decreased by looking at how each of these animals or people should have behaved or been controlled. So far she has written a day in the life of a flea, a day in the life of a plague victim, a day in the life of a medieval medicine man. She is currently researching information to write a day in the life of a grave-digger, and she may do a rat and/or bacteria, as well as possibly a relative. She has left it open and will simply see how many she can complete well in the six weeks.
I just think the concept she has chosen is such a good idea and she has, so far, kept her interest and is working diligently and steadily towards her end goal. I am looking forward to seeing if she is able to maintain it for the full six weeks.
Yes, you have read correctly, A5 is joining us. This will not be an independent project at all. I will be doing it alongside her, much as I have worked alongside the older ones up until the last year or so.
She will be doing a short presentation on bacteria, focusing her work on the Yersinia Pestis bacteria (the bacteria responsible for the plague). Although she is not doing any work on the plague with her brother and sisters, she is doing the microbe unit with them and it is from this unit we will draw inspiration and information from. I will try to come up with a practical demonstration she can do for her presentation as she is not reading well enough to read from a key word outline.
She is a very confident child and I am sure will not struggle to demonstrate something…I just have to work out what! Any ideas, anyone?