Phase 2 in The Project Approach is the field work. This is where the meat of the discovery will happen. In this phase children will measure, count, label, compare, interview, sketch, make notes, do rubbings, design and complete surveys and take photographs.
We discussed in our group where our individual interests were and made a plan for our investigations. One woman went off to count jets in the fountain and do some interviewing of the maintenance staff there, and another colleague and I threw on our suits and hit the hot tub-all in the interest of education of course!
When we got there an employee was checking the pool PH and chlorine levels. He let us interview him and photograph his work. He answered a great deal of our questions. We did some sketching of the pool and hot tub, took more photographs, and then got in to investigate the questions unanswered.
We had a couple of hours of initial field study. Then we came back together to reflect on this part of the project. What was noticed was the asking and thinking about the questions became infectious. While in the field, so many more questions became interesting and it was very hard to stop when the time limit was up. We formed relationships with each other based on this shared content and interest. I did not know these other women when we started this project and this shared discovery helped us to form connections with each other, something we try to help our students learn to do. When we did add to the question list separately in lieu of our group being together, it felt isolated, and the collaboration aspect of this work became very rewarding. We found ourselves very involved in the drawings-even people that felt they could not draw became engrossed in what they were noticing and trying to record.
I know I had to keep myself in check as I found that if I saw someone on the elevator in a swimsuit, my inclination was to interview her. I became so interested in this seemingly benign topic. This incredible engagement is what I want to pass along to my students.
As I have said in an earlier post, this was a simulated project crammed into a much shorter time frame. What I did realize with this is the importance of revisiting the field site. We did a few hours of field work, came back together and shared what we had learned, compared it to our predictions and became interested in other aspects that we hadn’t thought of earlier. We were able to go back to the various water features a few more times to redraw something or ask another question.
I have taken my students on several wonderful field sites, but only once. Except for the studies that were held on school property, we have not revisited a field site. I have gained a new appreciation for the value of this. It is why Lillian and Sylvia stress for teachers to look around their schools and their neighborhoods. What is in walking distance that would allow for several visits? This will be a much larger focus in my work going forward this year. What is around my school that I haven’t really looked at with this lens?