Exploring with Photos

Most students’ would jump at the chance to travel the world if they could. Children instinctively have a thirst for adventure! While it might not be possible for students to visit all the interesting places in the world, they can still explore with library sources. Photographs are an extremely engaging resource that lets students experience new topics without ever leaving the library.

After returning from my expedition to Antarctica, my students experienced the White Continent in a hands-on way. Instead of presenting a whole class slideshow, I decided to have students explore the unique facets of Antarctica with photographs. I developed photos taken from my voyage that encompassed five major categories: ice, penguins, seals, whales, and seabirds.
The learning target for this lesson was “I CAN make observations using photographs to learn about Antarctica.” After discussing the learning target and reviewing key terms (observations and photographs), I began the lesson by modeling how to observe a picture for meaning.
I demonstrated how some observations are obvious (the mountains and snow), but I also emphasized how the details give us information. I did a think-aloud about the other ship in the picture as well as the dilapidated buildings on shore. This gave me the opportunity to discuss the whalers who worked in Antarctica decades ago and how today, people come to Antarctica mostly to explore or research.

Next, it was students’ turn to journey to Antarctica. Each group was given a marker. They spent about five minutes at each station examining the photos before writing observations on the handout. When students rotated to a different station, they first read the observations by the previous groups before making their own remarks.
This activity engaged students in learning about Antarctica through observation and inquiry. The instructional design spawned interesting and thoughtful conversations among students and between the students and teacher. As I monitored the room, students asked me questions about objects in the pictures, and I attempted to clear any misconceptions I overheard.
Students became explorers by traveling to Antarctica through photographs. Most importantly, students were actively engaged in the activity. Their observations led to discussions, questions, and a longing to learn more about the planet’s geography and wildlife.
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