Kirsten Wallace is the VP at Steves as well as a teacher in a grades 5 and 6 classroom. She participates in an intermediate inquiry group that I co-facilitate with Chris Loat and Brooke Douglas. The original inquiry group looked at the sturgeon and the Fraser River and inquiry projects involved the sturgeon, the salmon, the Fraser and then branched off to all sorts of interesting areas.
In looking at the Social Studies curriculum, Kirsten wanted a way to generate interest in Canadian government and law and asked me to come into her classroom to facilitate an initial discussion. I wanted to appeal to this age group and make it personal for them, so that they might connect to this topic. I began by putting the question, “Why do we have laws?” on the whiteboard and asked the students to discuss this in their table groups and then add their thoughts, graffiti-style, to the whiteboard.
For this first question, most of the students seemed to focus on safety.
The next question up for discussion was, “What are the most important laws for a country?” There was much discussion and debate around this one.
Some of the students were a little unclear on what some of the Canadian laws were and so I read them a short informational piece from the Canadian Immigration website. The main ideas were that laws maintain order and equality. The students made connections to books they had read and stories they had heard in the news and seemed very curious about why laws in some countries were so different than ours.
The students were then asked to think of their own wonder or inquiry questions about law. They were able to choose how they recorded their questions and some enjoyed creating vignettes or stories to support their questions while others preferred webs or tables. Choice in representation is a powerful thing and the students were all able to engage in this task.
These personal inquiry questions will hopefully get these students started on some interesting inquiry work as they create meaning of the complex topic of Canadian law.