One student asked if he could discuss cold cases. I asked him to narrow down his topic. After careful consideration, he offered to teach me, by way of this assignment, about the time period in which Agatha Christie was missing. I never would have thought to include something so...intriguing! Unusual! Mature! This will be fascinating. I will thoroughly enjoy reading about it. He, I know, picked up on my enthusiasm and is equally excited about his endeavor.
Another student approached me this way.
"Mrs. Stein, do you know about podcasts?"
"Yes, I do. Why?"
"Have you every heard of Serial?" (click on the title to learn more)
I practically startled him with my response. "OMG!!!! I listened to the entire thing!"
"Are you serious?"
"TOTALLY!!!" Yes, I was practically yelling.
"So can I talk about the case?"
"Oh man! You bet!"
I can't wait to see what he says. The simple act of restating the facts of the Adnan Syed case, in which Mr. Syed then a mere eighteen years old was accused of murdering his former girlfriend, Hae Min Lee, will generate a significant amount of higher level thinking in this young man. This is sixth grade. SIXTH GRADE! I never, in a million years, would have thought to include this topic for my students to study and share. But because he brought it to me, already knowledgeable about the podcast and the case, he will forge ahead massaging in his brain the facts in the Syed case having read And Then There Were None. Because he both read a mystery novel and listened to a radio broadcast, different parts of his brain will have been engaged. He will make connections that other delivery methods cannot begin to touch.
I'm so excited!!! It will be hard to be patient while the students work on the products in class. I love the happy, creative buzz that happens as glue, scissors, stickers and printed text start flying around the room. Students help one another; they watch one another as each approaches working on the project differently. I do my best to simply stay out of the way and answer questions as vaguely as I can. I want the students to drive their own decision making. This is a safe opportunity for them to take risks, learning as they go, opening doors to topics we don't have the opportunity to approach in the everyday curriculum. In researching the job of a real crime scene investigator, one student processed aloud how investigators in large metropolises such as ours are full-time employees rather than those in rural areas where lower crime rates permit part-time work. Another wondered aloud whether the encyclopedias her family has at home would have information about DNA evidence. She ultimately decided that because they were printed in the 1970's, she is not likely to find information there. Further conversation led us to consider whether dental records are trustworthy if fingerprints are unavailable. To what percentage is evidence OTHER than fingerprinting accurate, she wants to know? "You know, Mrs. Stein, that even twins have matching DNA." Yup, I know. My father is an identical twin. What a world of wonder this opens to us!
The best part about teaching? Learning! Bring it on!