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A dig into the past

As you know at Minch we like to go narrow and deep with as much of the learning as we can. In practice this means focusing on a specific theme in say a topic and exploring it in more detail and asking more questions and learning about it at a deeper level. We believe this is more meaningful- as in the children will not just gain knowledge but also have the time and inclination to put that knowledge to some use and/or think hard and deep about it.

Year 3/4 have just finished their Tutankhamun Note Books (note not a book about Ancient Egypt  – but about a finite area of knowledge- Tutankhamun).

  1. They researched the mystery around Tutankhamun’s death; then used this knowledge to come up with their own theories.
  2. They conducted their own archaeological dig and found out about artefacts such as ankh’s and discussed what they could have been used for- they made their own dig notes.
  3. They researched Howard Carter and the excavation of his tomb. They discussed the curse on his family and whether it was true.

‘We felt the topic was really interesting because we got to learn about all this by doing our own dig, making our own notebooks like real archaeologists (like Howard Carter- but hopefully without the curse). We learn very different kinds of things but around one topic- it keeps it simple and specific and its more interesting as a result.’ Agatha and Thea

At the close of this topic the children also took part in a ‘fun’ quiz- what we would call, in educational circles, a low stakes test. If we want knowledge to settle in children’s long term memories, we need to not overload them with knowledge, building where we can on what they already know (not go beyond their cognitive load); ask them to recall that knowledge (preferably not in a pressurised way) and preferably at a point when they have nearly forgotten that knowledge. The more cognition required to recall the knowledge the stronger the trace that knowledge will leave in their long term memories.

When I visited the class, they said, ‘We enjoyed it lots because Tutankhamun is really interesting …we really enjoyed doing the dig site because it was a new way of learning….it’s the way archaeologists work. We had to brush the artefacts down so as not to damage them.’

The children selected their favourite pages from their notebooks to be photographed.


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