Surrounded by Floods

Nov 23, 2011 by     27 Comments    Posted under: Classroom, Communicate, Create

As most of you already know Thailand was hit by serious flooding this year. The flood water inundated cities with up to 3 metres of water and came very close to flooding all of Bangkok – only a small section of the city remained dry. While the area around our school remained dry, our school closed for a number of days and a large section of the school population was directly affected by the flooding.

During this time year 7 students were inquiring into how river systems worked. The events that were taking place around the school provide a great learning opportunity for the students. I was lucky enough to get the chance to work with Teresa Tung and her class for this unit. Here is a brief overview of how the inquiry developed:

The Water is Coming

The floods spread rapidly throughout the country as the water moved towards the sea. Our challenge was to stay up to date with the information. Students realised that the newspapers and their websites were not up dated regularly. So we turned our attention to Twitter and explored the various “hashtags” that were developing. There were two major ones – “thaiflood” (which had tweets in Thai) and “thaifloodeng” (which had tweets in English). Through this research we explored reliability of information, the importance of video and pictures in conveying messages and much more. Following the information really highlighted how quickly the situation was developing and also how many people were affected.

Where Did the Water Come From

After many days of uncertainty about whether our area of Bangkok would flood, the signs started to improve. The school community really rallied together to offer support to those in need – check out a video here. In class discussions started to focus on how this situation developed in the first place. It was time to find out where all the water came from. We decided to look at how rivers worked and chose the Ping River and the Chao Phraya River as the focus for this. We turned to our trusty friend Google Earth and after some playing around built a tour which followed the river from the source to the sea. Whilst watching this we focused on the cities it passed through, the features of the rivers (meanders, tributaries, river mouth, etc) and also the various man made obstructions that affected the flow of the river. I would have to say the Google Earth tour was one of the most powerful uses of technology that I have ever seen. Below is a quick video of the tour – sorry for the low quality. If you would like the Google Earth file just let me know.

Did The Students Get It?

So while the disaster that has struck Thailand provided our students with a range of fantastic resources and learning opportunities, did the students actually pick up an understanding of how rivers work? To see if they did we asked them to develop “In Plain English” style videos of how rivers work. We have already used this style of video (developed by the people at Common Craft) before so the students got into the project very quickly and as you will see below did a fantastic job.

Reflecting on this unit I am so glad that I get to support teachers and students in their inquiries. The technology tools that we used really helped to provide a unique insight into the situation in Thailand and helped students draw a connection between this and the learning they were doing in class. It is times like these I love to be a teacher.

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