Thinking is the emphasis in our classroom - learning the process of HOW to think, not WHAT to think! What is thinking? How does scientific thinking differ from debating global issues? Can a child apply their thinking to real life events and make a difference through social action? With thinking in one hand and curiousity in the other, we will understand curricular concepts in our own lives, apply that understanding to the curriculum, and, in many cases, evaluate those concepts in terms of needing to make changes in the future.
So what is "Conceptual Teaching"
In 1998, William J. Clinton remarked that, “The sheer volume of knowledge is doubling every five years now.” ( William J. Clinton. Remarks by the President to the National Association of Attorneys General. March 12, 1998). Fast forward to 2011. Because of the incredible growth in technology, “The codified information base of the world is believed to double every 11 hours.” - Kerrie Holley, chief technology officer of IBM’s Global Business Services.
We can no longer have our focus be on teaching isolated events. Conceptual teaching is teaching the big ideas, which are living, breathing understandings, rather than simply teaching facts that exist in isolation, disconnected and irrelevant in a larger context. For example, rather than teach all the facts of European Exploration of the Americas, I teach the concept of exploration. First, the students learn what exploration means in their own lives and the causes and effects of exploring. Then we illustrate that with the curriculum - why did people and governments explore the Americas; what were the positive and negative results of that exploration; why did we explore the moon and what was the effect? Taking the pros and cons of past exploration, next we look at the exploration people and governments are currently involved in such as the human genome, oceans and Mars. What are the positives and how might we change the negatives? Learn from the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future. Most of science and social studies will be taught conceptually with assessments looking different than the often-assumed multiple-choice test of random facts.