As one of our Core Practices in Expeditionary Learning, we seek out experts to involve in every one of our Module topics of study. We define experts simply as people who provide knowledge on the subject being studied. We find experts working as professionals in their field of study and as members of our school or Detroit community with experience in the topic of study. Ideally, students will interact with experts on multiple occasions through their Module unit, and experts will give students feedback on their products as they work.
For our unit of study on the Sun, Moon, and Stars, we have connected with both experts working in the field of astronomy and members of our school community. During our first week of Module 2, we spoke with an astronomer working at the University of Michigan over Skype. She taught students about the planets and answered their many questions about how large the universe is and why stars are so hot! Students were dazzled by Ms. Wormley’s knowledge about the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and could not wait to start studying space themselves!
After becoming experts on the Sun, Moon, and Stars, students worked on meeting their reading and writing goals for the year by writing poetry about the sun. We thought-- who better to teach our students about poetry than their own poetry-loving families? We have had several parents in first-grade read their favorite poem to our crews, explain why they like it, and introduce some of the technical elements of poetry, like rhyme and simile. As we work on our final poems, we hope to invite these experts to come back and give us feedback on our own poetry writing.
We find that involving experts in our studies motivates and excites our students. When they can put a face to the title “Astronomer” or “Poet-- especially the face of a community member, students can begin to imagine themselves as experts or future experts too! This critical role that experts play in student motivation can be amplified even further when students develop relationships with their experts over time, consistently receiving feedback on their work from their real-world mentors.
We can’t wait for you to see who will join our students as experts during their next unit of study on birds-- maybe you!