HAND LEARNING E-NEWSLETTER
4, No. 7
IN THIS ISSUE:
1. OUTDOORS IN NEW ORLEANS
2. LEARNING FROM DIRECT EXPERIENCE
3. ONLINE RESOURCES
1. FHL AT NSTA
We enjoyed wonderful spring weather this year in New Orleans during NSTA’s
National Conference. First Hand Learning presented a day-long Professional
Development Institute (PDI) entitled “Outdoor Learning: A Path to
Science and Inquiry” at the Audubon Zoo, among other workshops.
The beautiful grounds offered a lovely backdrop to view the local and
exotic wildlife, and to develop field guides to the indigenous species
found there in Louisiana.
Participants were diverse; they came from across the country - Hawaii,
Wyoming, and Florida, to name just a few home states – and represented
teachers from kindergarten to high school, as well as science coordinators
and curriculum designers. It was a great opportunity to learn from these
thoughtful and engaged colleagues, as well as from First Hand Learning’s
collaborators who co-facilitated along with FHL staff:
* Mark Baldwin, The Roger Tory Peterson Institute (www.rtpi.org)
* Dr. Wendy Saul, University of Missouri – St. Louis (http://www.umsl.edu/services/cis/facstaff/chair_shopmaker.html)
* Therese Arsenault, Lansing Middle School, Lansing, NY (http://lcsd.k12.ny.us/lms/site/default.asp?1847Nav=|86|&NodeID=86)
Thanks to all who participated in the First Hand Learning NSTA sessions
this year. We were excited to meet so many who are committed to teaching
from direct experience and using the outdoors to enhance their science
inquiry and literacy. We hope to see you next spring in Philadelphia!
To learn more about Outdoor Inquiries® professional development workshops,
2. WHAT IS FIRSTHAND LEARNING?
As a nonprofit company we chose a name that reflected what we believe
in and what we are trying to accomplish; hence, “First Hand Learning”
(FHL). But the company is not the strategy. So what is firsthand learning
and why do we at FHL think it’s so important?
Firsthand learning basically refers to gaining knowledge or understanding
through direct, personal experience.
Firsthand learning empowers people by providing them with opportunities
to figure things out for themselves, to believe in the analytical abilities
of their own minds, and to connect with the world around them.
Firsthand learning arises from the learner's innate curiosity and the
desire to investigate real phenomena. It requires close engagement with
the immediate environment.
Firsthand learning generates questions that focus subsequent investigations.
It invites learners to gather and record their observations, to analyze
and interpret them, and to arrive at provisional answers.
Firsthand learning involves communication of the results of this investigative
process. Sharing evidence and discussing findings with others underscores
that learning is a social process.
Would you like some real-world examples of this sort of real-world learning?
3. FIRSTHAND LEARNING ON THE WEB
Firsthand learning has a lot in common with the scientific process we
call “inquiry” and can be considered a subset of it. Here
is a variety of different resources, all demonstrating, in one way or
another, learning through direct experience.
Some great real-world examples come, of course, from professional scientists
as they seek to learn more about the natural world:
* Firsthand observation sometimes requires inspired methods for answering
questions. Watch this nifty video clip that demonstrates via time lapse
photography the movements of a glacier over several months. Be sure to
note the clever set-up (no fancy equipment required!) used by the firsthand
learner/climate scientist to gather his data:
* Here’s another example of a scientist investigating firsthand
through developing research questions and figuring out how to gather meaningful
data – in this case “wiring” a forest to determine how
much water it uses: http://www.nsf.gov/discoveries/disc_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114365&govDel=USNSF_1
* Finally, check out this great new website, developed with funding from
the NSF, called “Understanding Science: how science really works”:
It offers many helpful resources for teachers and the general public as
it seeks to impart a better understanding of the complex and interactive
processes inherent in scientific discovery.
For instance, follow the investigative journey of scientists tackling
a question that seems at first glance to have no direct link to today’s
world: What happened to the dinosaurs? Find out how firsthand learning
is a necessary component of scientific exploration in this story that
beautifully illustrates the collaborative and intricate processes of science:
Of course, firsthand
learning is not exclusively the province of working scientists; it is
for everyone interested in discovering something new for themselves. Teachers
know that firsthand learning can be incredibly powerful for students.
In this short video we see teacher Rebecca Vore connecting the curriculum
to her outdoor garden, engaging her Austin charter school students in
the process of discovery. It isn’t all inquiry science, but it is
direct engagement with the immediate environment and offers a unifying
context for learning: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5i25_8u91Wo
Interested in firsthand learning this summer? Consider attending a week-long
professional development institute focused on ecosystem literacy, the
ecology of the Hudson River valley, and inquiry-based ecology ideas run
by the Cary Institute, a great group of firsthand learners. Learn more
about this opportunity and find out about paid fellowships at http://www.ecostudies.org/teachersummer.html.
Want to get started on some firsthand learning? Download a FREE First
Hand Learning MINI-JOURNAL and investigate the world directly today! http://www.firsthandlearning.org/minijournal.html.
What does firsthand learning look like to you? We welcome your thoughts,
comments, photos, videos, etc. Share your favorite example of firsthand
learning. Tell us how you integrate crucial “second hand learning”
strategies, or how you prepare students to hone their natural curiosity
and ask questions. Share your own inspirational moments and your frustrations.
Contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First Hand Learning Catalog offers science
notebooks, field journals, hands-on science kits, posters, and more.
Go to www.firsthandlearning.org/catalog/catalog_frameset.html
We hope you found this edition of the Firsthand Learning E-NEWSLETTER
informative. Please contact us with any comments, suggestions, or questions
you may have by emailing us at: email@example.com.
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© 2009 First Hand Learning, Inc.
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