Our Monday morning started with a lesson on rope making and braiding from Susan. We took long, dry leaves, soaked them in water, then - using the reverse wrap method - we braided them into rope which can then be used as bracelets. It was interesting to see how material that would otherwise be discarded or used as compost can be fashioned into something useful or decorative. I also thought that this would be a great activity for fidgeters such as myself.
We also watched a video which pointed out how rope is perhaps one of humankind's earliest inventions, apparently dating back around 20,000 years ago. During the Middle Ages, rope making machines were developed. Even now, I would imagine the process of making rope is not much different from how it was done back then.
After creating several lengths of rope, we did a dance somewhat like what is done around a maypole. As we danced, we held a length of ribbon tied around a stick, which resulted in a braid. Depending on what dance was performed, different types of braids were formed. When we danced in a circle, we formed a round braid, while dancing in a line formed a flat braid.
Several aspects of these activities can be incorporated into our classrooms. For one thing, it was satisfying to create something practical and interesting by hand using natural materials. For another, the dance activity teaches physical education, rhythm, and braiding techniques which can be transferred to ribbons or hair. Since rope is an ancient technology, history and science can also be taught.
In the afternoon, Margaret McKeon spoke to us about how outdoor education can be cross curricular and how we might create a cross curricular project that brings in outdoor education. Speaking from her own experience, she discussed how community, the environment, and the classroom can come together to create a project that is cross curricular, experiential, action oriented, place-based, sensory, empowering, and student led.
In our own groups, we discussed how we might create a project that covered 1-2 main subjects in the curriculum (as well as including pieces from other subjects) in a way that would be place-based, community oriented, and student led. Thinking back to my practicum, our final science project for my grade 3 class was to do research and present the findings on a sea creature that could be found in the Vancouver Aquarium. We visited the aquarium during a field trip and used it as an opportunity to do further research before the presentations. This project tapped into some of the ideas we discussed today, and I have come away with some other ideas of how this could incorporate more outdoor activities, be more place-based, and involve the community. For example, having the class focus on animals native to our area would have been one way to make it more place-based and likely that the community played a role or had knowledge about the environment and the animals that lived there.
Margaret encouraged us to not be afraid to get outside, to work at making as many community connections and partnerships as you can (but to realize it takes time), and to think about ways that the project can be action-oriented and have a real purpose. It was an inspiring and useful talk and I look forward to taking this knowledge into my future projects and practices.