The four modules of The Life of the
Land are organized around a set of study questions. The goal
of this method is to develop scientific problem-solving skills as part
of the process of developing a knowledge of the students' bioregion.
We suggest that the best approach to
each unit of study is to begin with the set of
orienting questions. The purpose of those questions is to
encourage students to think first in terms of their own place
in the world at the moment of doing their study.
Most students will find these questions
between challenging and very difficult. We expect most students
(or most teachers) will not be able to give answers to these
questions. The test should not be graded but for the purpose of
stimulating a spirit of questioning.
Next the teacher and students should
work out together a plan for developing the answers to the
questions. This can be done in several ways. One method
would be to divide the class into small groups, each with a single
question to work on. Another would be to assign single questions
to individual students. We prefer small group assignments at
The main point at this stage is to
determine how students can go about finding an answer. They
should consider library resources, local resources such as city
offices or museums, or governmental agencies. In many cases the
best resources will be people residing in the community and students
should be encouraged to discover those resources as well.
Once the appropriate sources of
information have been identified the students should be asked to
pursue the most practical ones first. In some cases we
anticipate that there may not be a good answer short of studying some
major field of science for a significant period of one's life.
It is important for students to know the difference between a question
that can be answered easily and one which requires a considerable
investment of time and study.
This process will inevitably lead to
the need to reformulate the questions and to pose new
questions. This task should be done together between teachers
and students with the new questions incorporated into the materials
made available for the next group of students.
The two most important points of this
method are that students learn how to locate the information they need
and that whatever they are able to learn is passed on to following
students. Both teachers and students should understand that in
most cases there will be no 'right' answers to the questions or
answers that will remain established for long because of continually