Framing Understanding

Sheep on grass

Yesterday we got a lot done at home, thanks to the help of great local companies like:

  • Whatcom Gutter to replace broken roofing gutter; important since we get non-stop rain from November to May!
  • Lynden Sheet Metal to correctly vent the bathroom fan above the roof instead of into the attic and replace older 3″ dryer vent with 4″ dryer vent to help my gas dryer get those clothes into shape quicker!
  • Kulshan Veterinary to “band” (castrate) some two-year-old ram lambs and do routine hoof trimming. The lambs will be slaughtered in October (roughly 2 months after castration.)

Today I want to tackle school preparation and hope to achieve a similar amount of progress. I have laid out the prescribed outcomes for each course that I am in charge of (two courses I am teaching developed curricula) and now I am trying to set up larger frameworks in which to achieve those goals. I turned to Understanding By Design, some resources I have from my days at the highly professional Gyeonggi Suwon International School in Korea.

UbD has a page in one of their books about “Big Ideas” which is helpful but leans heavily on narrative courses (like history) rather than quantitative courses like math and science. So I want to pull together some “Big Ideas” for quantitative courses, starting with selections from their list: balance, correlation, creativity, cycles, environments, interactions, invention, order, patterns, production / consumption, symbol, systems, technology. What are other “Big Ideas?”

  • systems: feedback, equilibrium, games as closed systems, algebra as a system
  • structure: function (in biology this is part of studying organisms and ecosystems¬†and in chemistry this is an essential part of atomic theory and understanding molecules and compounds)
  • technology: creating products (surfactants, soaps, non-corrosive but dense solutions for cooling cars or electrical transformers)
  • design
  • human ingenuity (thanks IB for this one!)
  • representation (making images of data, like graphs, to interpret information with the goal of finding principles or patterns.
  • complexity: describing natural events can require “complex” equations

Ok, I am struggling a bit to nail the principle of a “big idea.” Here a few more possibilities:

  • Function (how things work; closely related to systems)
  • Emergent properties: how are complex “things” different than their constituent parts?
  • Scale: what happens when you “zoom in” or “zoom out?” This seems similar to emergent properties
  • Science is a way of knowing (a kind of knowledge, has its own limitations)
  • Communication is necessary to build knowledge and accomplish tasks cooperatively.

Ok … now to use these to generate “Essential Questions” for the units…



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