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  • Writer's pictureLidia

Provocations!

If you think of inquiry as a house that is filled with curiosities, questions, interests, ideas and knowledge, then provocations could be considered the foundation that inquiry is built on. Of course, curiosity and questions stem from genuine student interests and ideas, but provocations can help guide those questions through the inquiry in a more meaningful way. Provocations are an essential tool for the inquiry-based learning environment. If you read my last blog post, "Inquiry: What is it? How do I plan for it?", you know that I mentioned that I don't do a lot of planning until I have my students in front of me. The same idea applies to provocations. Sure you can search for, collect and stockpile a bunch of provocations ahead of time, so you have them hanging out in your toolbelt, but we need to keep the authenticity of inquiry in mind!


A provocation can come in many different forms, but it is always intended to provoke thoughts, ideas, and actions that can help to expand on a thought, project, idea or interest (The Compass School, 2017).


In my classroom, and probably any inquiry classroom, provocations play such an important role at the beginning and throughout an inquiry. Provocations can be in the form of images, artifacts, videos, newspapers, current events, nature walks or any hands-on exploration activity. One of my favourite forms of provocations is picture books! I have used the other forms of provocations as well but I feel like picture book provocations are what I started my inquiry journey with.


Provocations aren't just the "beginning of the inquiry", resources either. They can be used throughout the inquiry to push the learning forward, which is why the authenticity of the provocation is so important! The best way for you to see provocations in action is to share some that were used with my students during our class inquiry. In an inquiry classroom, the teacher isn't the "all-knowing" leader of learning. Student Voice and Student Choice are key! Through these examples, you can see how some provocations were teachers selected while others were selected by students.


Student Inquiry: Could we live on Mars?


During the last school year, my students had a big interest in space, living in space, and different space phenomena that could and couldn't be explained by science. After conducting an inquiry on plants and the things plants need to survive, my students had more questions about survival, which is what led us to the inquiry "Could we live on Mars?". But before we got to that point as a learning community, there were so many steps and provocations that we got to experience. I am going to share a few of those with you below.


Our Essential Question: Why is the Sun so important?


I remember this day vividly. It was right after a long weekend. I came to school that morning with a big plan for what I wanted to do with my students. As soon as my class entered the room, my plans went out the window. We had just completed our plant inquiry, but the students still had more questions. This time it was about the sun. They knew from their research that the sun was necessary to help their plants grow, but they wanted to know more.


Provocation #1: The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal

Students used their prior knowledge and new information from the book “The sun is kind of a big deal” to learn more about the importance of the sun in our solar system. They explored natural forms of light and were instantly curious about other planets & moons in space!


Click on the image below to see more:


We continued our learning on the sun, we talked about the moon, why the moon looks different at different times of the year, and so much more. At this point, students' curiosity and interest in space, the sun and the moon continued to grow. To our luck, the 2019 Blood Moon occurred!


Near the end of January of last year, there was a lunar eclipse, that resulted in a blood moon and my students were wondering... Why? Why does that happen? Some students had watched the news and saw the Blood moon, while others had no idea what we were talking about.


PROVOCATION #2... a student in my class introduced us to a live stream of the Blood Moon from one of their favourite YouTubers, iJustine.

We watched part of the live stream together and naturally that sparked a lot of questions and curiosity.


From there, our inquiry snowballed into so much more!

Students had so many questions about life in space, what else was in space and wanted to know how we could explore space.


Provocation #3: Astronomy in Action!

Again, we took to social media and that is when we found, Astronomy in Action! We explored the solar system in our very own gym! Astronomy in Action brought an inflatable planetarium to our school and the students got to explore space, stars and planets!

Click on the images to see more about Astronomy in Action! It was an AMAZING experience and the kids learned so much from it.



Students saw the landscape of each planet and learned some more information about the climate in space and on various planets. Once we got back to class, student questions were flying left, right and centre. This time students wanted to know what effects space has on our bodies! The learning continued and THINGS WERE GETTING SERIOUS!

After comparing the living condition in space and in our classroom students had SO MANY CONCERNS! If climate change is a thing and it might be “not so good for us” we might need to relocate. This is when the HUGE question came into play, CAN WE LIVE ON MARS?


WE MADE IT! We didn't need any more provocations at this point. Provocations were experience set up by myself or a student in the classroom in response to their interests and ideas. With each provocation students needed to explore, question, test, construct and create a path to take their ideas and theories to the next level. When the question "Can we live on Mars?" was asked, students were ready. They had the learning experiences they needed and were now able to collect resources to extend their learning and test their theories.


Each time a new provocation was introduced, student curiosity went THROUGH THE ROOF! Each provocation PROVOKED thinking that pushed the learning forward. This is (in my opinion) the biggest take away from this blog post. When we pay attention to the interests of our students, they get serious about learning! They want to know more, they want to extend and build on their knowledge. The use of provocations can truly be magical.


- Lidia



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