Probably the blandest title I’ve ever written for a blog that – but it kind of fits the mood. There’s been some hoo-hah recently about knowledge organisers. Are they good? Bad? Boring ways of forcing facts down little gosling throats or essential diets for healthy learning?
Well to throw my tuppence worth in, they’re neither. They’re a baseline. A common denominator of the things we’d like the children to be able to remember for whatever reason. Some find them useful as starting points. Some see them as the starter, main course and pud. I probably fall in the former camp. Take the example Jon Brunskill kindly shared of his KO on the moon landings. There’s nothing wrong with it at all. Facts leading (hopefully) to a decent piece of informative writing. There’s nothing wrong, but it’s so small. Man, this is the MOON. There’s not much else out there that can get kids more excited than space. Surely it’s worth expanding?
A few years ago when we were outside I got the children to make footprints in the mud with their wellies. We predicted how long they would last and I asked them how long they thought a footprint would last on the moon. They generally thought it would last longer on the moon because they decided there was no rain there. And well, where we live, it rains a lot. But it was the first of many questions – some coming from me, some from them, that led to lots of investigation and learning:-
“Why were there no women astronauts on the Apollo missions?”
“How long would a footprint last there and why?”
“Is there less gravity on the moon? What is gravity?”
“How long did it take to get there?” (you could work this out from the times and dates provided on Jon’s knowledge organiser)
“How far is it? How fast did the rocket go?”
“Have rockets got faster over time?”
“If it took that long to get to the moon, how long would it take to get to Mars? The edge of the solar system? The edge of our galaxy?”
“How much did it cost to go there?”
“Would there be tides without the moon?”
“How do people pee in space? Where does it go to?” (that was mine)
It seems a shame to limit learning about this amazing voyage to a literacy task. Look how much Maths and Science is in here! And I’m reminded of the Year 4 children I saw in Ashley Primary School arguing about a 2cm disparity between their scaled circle of the moon and one of the earth. They had found out the circumferences of both, scaled them down and cut them out. They they had used the same ratio to work out the scaled distance between them. But the hinge of a door was in the way. They’d have to move the moon 2cms away from the earth. One of the children was most upset – she wanted it to be accurate. She knew in reality that 2 centimetres was thousands of miles. Now that kind of passion and commitment is what we really need from children. Facts are great, but caring enough about those facts to argue over them is greater. Sort of.
It’s not enough to teach children the what of the world and beyond. We need to teach them to find the wonder in all that is around them. We want them to want to protect their world, to investigate it, to push the boundaries of knowledge forward and become knowledge creators, not just knowledge keepers. So Knowledge Organisers. Yes, they’re ok. But they’re bread without butter. I know a good sandwich starts with the bread, but I don’t see why we can’t give them a tasty filling. That’s all.