June 6, 2016

Accelerator (2)

Last week’s post is an example of accelerated curriculum in action. It begs the question: can 3D visualization help even younger children learn more advanced topics, more thoroughly?

The answer is “Yes.” Here’s another compelling story, told by teacher Sofia Kruth at Sandhultskolan, evidencing how a teacher approached curriculum acceleration using the 3D Classroom to teach photosynthesis at a much lower grade level than is the norm— in first grade.

We started our school year (year 1) by planting seeds to see the growth. We went outdoors to look at trees and plants and how they change throughout seasons. Our curriculum for the younger years entails changes in seasons, along with simple lifecycles of plants and animals. One day in autumn a pupil in one of the upper classes found parts of a deer in the woods. We took care of it, processed the parts, and looked at them in class – we found a hip, upper hind leg, and bits of the backbone. The younger pupils wanted to be part of those discoveries, too. I allowed my younger pupils to examine the skeleton parts and after that we went to watch the human skeleton in 3D. My pupils were fascinated with the human skeleton and drew conclusions about the thorax movements as the person breathes. With these positive remarks, and the attention and curiosity that my young pupils showed, it made me think about other areas for using 3D visualization. 
In the Swedish curriculum the photosynthesis is mentioned for year 4-6, nothing in the earlier years. With my positive experience with the 3D-Classroom in studying the skeleton, I thought: “Why not? I will challenge my pupils and let them deepen their understanding of plants, carbon dioxide, oxygen and their correlation—and if it doesn’t work I will know that they are not ready.” 
Said and done. We took the time to set up the 3D-Classroom and clicked trough the menus together. My pupils were fascinated with the look of the leaf, the stomata and how the stomata open and close depending on access to light. We followed the cell and saw the “factory” inside, how everything moved while light and stopped when dark; we saw the “explosion” inside the leaf as carbon dioxide molecules met the water molecules and through solar energy created new substances in a chemical reaction; we saw the carbohydrates the plant used and the oxygen that is released into the air for us to breathe.

The 3D captured my pupils’ curiosity, but also helped them see and think beyond their normal capacity. One student spontaneously remarked “What luck there is daytime on the other side of the globe when we have night, otherwise there wouldn’t be any more oxygen.”  This pupil made correct assumptions and connections that included the earth’s axis and earth movements around its own axis and the sun with the chemical reaction inside a leaf. Rather complex thoughts and revelations from this young pupil (7 years old). The entire class drew complex schemata of how the photosynthesis works, schemata that entail the stomata, water molecules, carbon dioxide molecules, and the importance of light.

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