In a school like PDS, where teachers are advisors, and where we spend so much time getting to know students well, it doesn’t take long to “get down to work,” in the subject areas. In all classes, teachers and students started to work with big questions this past week:
How many numbers from 10 to 99 have two distinct digits? (Sixth graders are refreshing their work with whole numbers.) What happens if we heat baking soda? (Eighth grade students are learning about mass and volume.) What is the difference between autobiography and biography in the information and point of view? (Seventh graders wrote biographies of each other and autobiographies of themselves, and compared the results. What are square roots good for? (Seventh and eighth graders explore the pythagorean theorem and all the good things that follow from triangles.)
Questions give us an entree to a subject. They are engaging. When a teacher writes a good question, one that encompasses a big theme of the course, we call it an essential question. The best ones are in straightforward “kid friendly” language.
What is a hero? Is Santiago of The Old Man and the Sea a hero? (Eighth graders tackle the themes in their summer reading.) How many drops of water will a penny hold? (Seventh graders encounter the unique properties of water.) The Roman Empire was awesome– How did it ever fall? (The sixth grade prepares to enter the Middle Ages.)
Questions will be part of the students’ entire education at PDS. Some will be asked by the teachers and many, many will be asked by the students themselves. Some will be answered; others never can be.