Reflection on using the Land Talk Curriculum
During the 2018-2019 school year, we were fortunate to work with several amazing teachers who piloted different versions of the Land Talk curriculum in their classrooms. Teachers ranged in context from 2nd grade to 12th grade, from Hawaii to Indiana to Maryland, from English Language Arts to AP Biology to History and beyond. After piloting lessons and tailoring them to their own classrooms, teachers had overwhelmingly positive things to say about Land Talk.
Here are some brief highlights of what teachers loved about using Land Talk in their classrooms:
- An authentic audience that motivated students
- Student-centered lessons that engaged students in discussion and collaboration
- A connection to and insight on locales different from students’ own context
- Scaffolds to support students’ development of valuable interviewing skills
- Adaptability of the curriculum and lesson plans
- A chance to do something totally new and different (for both teachers and students)
- Alignment to standards (NGSS & CCSS) and their pre-existing curricula
Based on the work of our teachers in piloting this curriculum, we also have a few suggestions for teachers planning to use Land Talk in their classrooms:
- Plan ahead! Preparing students to do high-quality interviews takes time, especially since students will have to identify adult interviewees. Be sure to build in plenty of time to introduce students to Land Talk, prepare them for interviews, and support them in getting their interviews uploaded to the website.
- Think logistics. Many students need a lot of support in thinking through the logistics of conducting and recording an interview. Offer opportunities to practice, and include time to review how to record and where to save interviews.
- Check in frequently. One teacher suggested periodic “partner check-ins” leading up to the final due date in which students would report to each other on their progress of identifying an interviewee, scheduling an interview, preparing questions, and completing the interview. This was a great way to have students monitor their own progress.
- Photos. The Land Talk website asks for participants to upload “Then and Now” photos of their observer’s location. Consider how you will support students in finding these images (particularly non-copyrighted images). Many historical photos can be found online through image searches.
- Uploading. As your students prepare to upload their interviews to Land Talk, be sure that they have all aspects prepared: proof-read writing about how the place and the observer’s activities have changed over time, a short written overview of the interview, photos, and, of course, the interview itself. Scaffolds and step-by-step instructions for all of this can be found within our curriculum.
- Make it your own! Our teachers customized the curriculum in ways that worked for their classrooms. Bring in books that you feel connect to Land Talk or activities that support students’ understanding of landscape change. For example, teachers of younger students enjoyed pairing Land Talk with the books As an Oak Tree Grows by G. Brian Karas and Home by Jeannie Baker. Alternatively, a middle school science teacher paired Land Talk with student-led research on bodies of water that have changed, such as the Aral Sea and Lake Mead. And, an AP Biology teacher paired Land Talk with a field study activity that she had students engage in over the course of the year.
Explore some conversations by students here: