Corbett Prep Students Embark on a Journey of Exploration
The International Baccalaureate unit started with a hands-on activity designed to grab third and fourth graders’ attention and increase retention of what they learned.
Sept. 18, 2014 (TAMPA, Fla.) – Gold was out there, the explorers knew. They just had to find it.
Was it in the playground? Beneath a bench in the Pavilion? Hidden on Harry’s Deck? Third and fourth graders at Corbett Preparatory School of IDS set out to canvas the campus and see what they would discover.
More than a scavenger hunt, the exercise got students up and moving as they learned about early world explorers by taking on a quest themselves. Students worked in teams, planning their strategies before venturing out. Everyone returned to the classrooms at the end to reflect on their experiences and reactions.
Third grade teachers Laura Czerwionka and Tracey Price said it was exciting to see the looks on students’ faces when the gold was found. “The kids experienced a glimpse of history and learned about the perseverance involved in being an explorer,” Czerwionka said.
The hands-on activity kicked off the International Baccalaureate (IB) unit “Where We Are in Place and Time — Land Ho!” The central idea is that exploration leads to discovery, which can, in turn, lead to change. During the unit, students discuss the reasons humans explore, the responsibilities of explorers and the changes that occur as a result. Students learn about European explorers as a springboard to investigate other cultures and how their discoveries were impacted.
Benefits of physical activity in class
Role-playing explorers brings movement to the lesson, which helps students retain what they are learning. David Sousa, an international consultant in educational neuroscience, says that physical activity stimulates the brain’s long-term storage functions. The novelty of an on-campus exploration also attracts and holds students’ attention.
Like explorers centuries ago, the Corbett Prep students embarked on the quests with a mixture of confidence and curiosity. Some teams would return victorious, while some were left empty-handed. They questioned their search methods and how they used their time. One team mirrored economic reality by expressing frustration over limited resources.
It was OK to feel disappointed or upset about missing the gold, said third and fourth grade teacher Ann Cashen. Those were feelings that actual explorers would have encountered, because they had such a passion for what they were doing.
Finding gold could also have unexpected results, the students learned. A team representing Spain had to give up their treasure to the queen, played by teacher Carmyn Samuel. She collected her prize and rewarded the team with small tokens in exchange.
“But this is so tiny,” team members protested. “We want our treasure back!”
How explorers in history felt
Third and fourth grade teachers use the simulation to help students understand the hunger and drive real explorers felt as they searched for a limited resource. It could have been gold, diamonds or items to trade, such as spices, said fourth grade teacher Kim Rostick. At Corbett Prep, the prize was chocolate.
“You know it’s out there somewhere,” Rostick said, as her class prepared to go outside. “You just have to find it.”
Whether they experienced sweet success or returned to the classroom empty-handed, all Corbett Prep explorers came away from the experience with a better understanding of their world, its history and the shared experiences among different cultures.