Attention Please!

This week was an abbreviated one; two of the three schools attending arrived a day later due to President’s Day.  Having only one full field day, I decided to fill the day with as many activities as time (and attention) would allow.  During this week’s practicum we discussed the role of student attention and how as instructors we might adapt our instruction to achieve more attentive moments of learning.  One pro-tip that was given to us during practicum was to design our day in such a way to account for AM and PM energy fluctuations– where students are more likely to be in a focused state in the AM and a social and relaxed, less focused state in the PM.  

My goal for the full field day was to introduce a student-led investigation in the Marsh Loop Forest Wild Zone.  In order to prepare them for this task of making observation and asking questions, I planned on taking them directly to the marsh bird blind for an ecosystem observation.  I anticipated that they would be more focused and receptive immediately after our Friendship gathering.  This was not the case.  They were very socially engaged and energetic (singing aloud musical numbers from Treasure Island).  Knowing that the bird blind ecosystem observation would require stillness and silence, I quickly began to re-evaluate my AM strategies.

Instead of immediately heading to the bird blind, I decided to go ahead with a team challenge that I was saving for the PM.  This team building game requires strategizing, running, and freezing, which helped reached this team’s social and energetic needs while still bringing some focus on the challenge aspect of the activity.

At the bird blind, I was able to do an ecosystem observation for much longer I believe than had I not done some energetic team building beforehand.  For this particular ecosystem observation the students were much more engaged.  I later allowed the students to explore outside of the bird blind where they would be able to hear much more.  I noticed that the observations made in the journals were encouraging them to explore more; they were taking in more of what was happening around them (i.e. honing in on a squirrels behavior, examining a glob of orange fungus).  This week reminded me that the simple AM/PM model is good to keep in mind, but it’s also important to read your students energy before and after certain lessons and to respond accordingly.

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