Call us crazy, but we believed that a valuable learning experience could be provided by having students make their own salt dough maps of the physiographic regions of the state after having discussed them in class. So what did the students say?
“This was a 10 out of 10 day!”
“ I wish we could do this every day!”
“I want to do this at home!”
When students are making comments such as those, the teacher has to wonder if they’re having too much fun and if actual learning is taking place! And – oh my goodness! – what if the principal hears all the excitement coming from the room!!??
Those were some of the comments and considerations surrounding our salt map activity. We had other considerations as well since neither of us had done the activity in this particular format – back-to-back classes in rapid-fire order so that all of the fourth grade classes would do the activity on the same day. That’s a lot of dough!!
So – here’s what WE learned!
It does take a lot of dough. That’s why we dedicated the evening before to making enough dough to ensure that we had enough for at least 90 maps. From that, we learned:
For the big question – did the students learn anything? We have heard “hands-on” learning for decades, but I’ve always advocated that unless we have “hands-on / minds-on” learning, we are wasting our time and resources. To ensure that students kept their minds engaged while their hands were having a delightfully good time with the colorful dough, we asked these kinds of questions:
Student questions dictated other discussions and kept the conversation lively and informative. They were looking forward to their maps drying overnight, so that they could take them home the next day and share information with families.
As teachers, we always have to make good choices about how to allocate our limited classroom time. When we debriefed and reflected on the activity, we concluded, “yes, it was valuable learning time.” We based that on
For the curious – the principal did come in unannounced and spend most of one class period with us. She had a great time, too, and loved what was going on!
And here’s Team H&H at the end of the day. Did we forget to mention that it was “Team Jersey” day at the school?