I first noticed it at the Field Museum last Monday–our 5-year-old son insisted on carrying the map the attendant handed us as we purchased our admission at the door. This map became a permanent accessory that day as he consulted it at each new exhibit and fought to keep it out of his little sister’s hands. By the end of the day, the map was torn and tattered, but even accompanied us back to our hotel.
As we arrived at the Museum of Science and Industry on Wednesday, he immediately made a beeline to pick up two maps from the kiosk–one for himself and one for his sister. Again, he consulted it throughout the day. Although he couldn’t read the words, he was quickly picking up on the pictures to help figure out where we were and where we might want to visit next.
Yesterday we ended Spring Break with a visit to the zoo, and again both kids insisted on having maps in hand. This time our son relied on the color-coding system and the pictures of the animals to help us travel through the exhibits, pointing out where all of his favorite animals were. On the way home he even requested a pen so he could draw a picture of himself on the map. (Of course, his sister had to do the same.)
We frequently hear the question “What’s our plan?” at our house. (They’re a lot like their mother.) They want to know where we’re going, what we’re doing, and when each event will take place.
But this new fascination with maps has made me stop and think: What is so significant about a map?
And then I realized–an itinerary only tells you what’s going to happen next. A map helps you navigate. Maps show you the big picture and allow you to choose a path based on your preferences, your resources, and your priorities. Maps show you where you are, where you’ve been, and where you might go next. Maps give you control and options.
As I think about the learners in our classrooms, I know we’re quick to give them itineraries. We tell them the daily schedule, upcoming assignments, and our objectives for each lesson or unit.
But how often do we give them maps? How do we create opportunities to show them the big picture of their learning and allow them to control how they navigate through a unit? When do we set aside time to support them in exploring the big ideas and seeing how everything connects? How do we support them in considering their own paths for learning?
Are we putting maps in our students’ hands each day, or are we simply handing them itineraries?
I’m excited to join other writers every Tuesday (and daily during the month of March) in 2017 to participate in the Slice of Life writing challenge through Two Writing Teachers. Read all about how you can Write. Share. Give. on their website here.