Structuring School Opportunities

Routine Walkabout

This small group experience is a mini field trip, indoors or out, to  look at the familiar in a different way, mediated by language and returning to represent what was found.

drainThree steps are involved. The group makes a plan. The group goes on a short tour. The group shares what they found and creates a product to represent what they observed. The image I use for this site came from a walkabout where the children were walking in the close neighborhood looking for things that were scary. They found it.


1. Make a Plan

First decide what you are going to look for on your mini-field trip. I like looking for things that challenge normal perspectives. Here are some ideas that come to mind.

Things that are dark.
Things that are light.
Shiny things.
Reflective things.
Warm things.
Things that get wet when it rains.
Things that move in the wind.
Things that make sounds.
Things that open and close.
Things that are beautiful.
Things that are tiny.
Things that are as tall as you.
Things that are out of place.
Things that are scary.
Things for safety.
Things that need fixing.

The list could go on and on. Each, of course, has its opposite, e.g., things that are cold or dry when it rains.

I prefer the walkabout to be emotionally engaging, not academic. I don’t plan to count the number of windows, find things that are orange, or find things that are triangles. I prefer generating unique experiences that require thinking in unusual categories. I either decide the topic or offer a small set of choices for the group to select from.

2. Do

tableI prepare a clipboard which I carry that has each child’s name and a space to record that child’s ideas. When a child makes a discovery I can quickly write it down. Empty spaces show me to whom I wish to pay more attention.
“I don’t have anything yet for you.”
“I wonder what you can find.”
Copying other’s ideas is perfectly fine. “This is what the other’s said.”
“I’ll check back with you in a little bit.”
“I’d like to write your idea here in this empty box.”

3. Represent

Rather than simply verbally review the results of the trip (“Mark said this, Ricardo said…” etc.)I like making something that can tangibly represent at least one idea/observation from each child. Usually I create a book with an illustration from each child on the idea he or she had.

carwarmFor example, we were looking for what was warm on a sunny day. Mark touched a parked car, a shady side and a sunny hood. He said, “The car is warm.” I wrote down next to Mark’s name “car”. Later, when we returned I printed at the bottom of a blank sheet of paper, as neatly as I could, Mark’s name and “The car is warm.” I handed that sheet to Mark to illustrate that experience. I did the same for each child in the group using the same phrasing: The sidewalk is warm. The pole is warm. The fence is warm.

To the first early finisher I gave the challenge of decorating a title sheet for the book, writing “The Warm Book”, bookthe names of the children, and the date. To the next finisher I gave a “The End” page to decorate, too. Then I stapled the pages together and read the book aloud. The next day the book was on display in the book center in the classroom.

I often found that the first walkabout experience was not very focused, for the children had no idea what was happening. After one or two of these experiences, walkabout day was a favorite. “Is it walkabout day today?”

Of course, a quick book isn’t the only way to represent. Children may gather things, such as litter, sticks, leaves, etc., and select a few of the items to sort and classify. Those sets can be counted with hash marks or numerals or graphed. I have done the same with small cutouts from their crayon rubbings of textures they found.

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