Introduction to Great Blue
Each student in our class, as well as students from other elementary classrooms in the Madison-area Heron Network, published an original research article in our network’s Great Blue journal (see below in this section the preface to the 2006 journal, “Welcome to Great Blue!”).
Using “Topics for Greenbush Great Blue Projects” (in this section) as a planning tool, we first brainstormed many aspects of life in the Greenbush and how these might become extended queries resulting in articles in one of the segments of our journal: Kid-to-Kid (social studies), It Figures! (math), Critics & Fanatics (text and media literacy), and The Gallery (arts). Unlike prior years, when students in this classroom would research a much wider range of topics, in 2005-06 they limited their inquiries to the Greenbush, so there were no articles from our class in 2006 in the I Wonder (science) segment.
Their first step was to find a question they cared enough about to explore over two months, one for which they (with help from classmates, teachers, and community partners) could find enough resources to explore their question. We encouraged them to look especially for questions that they could at least partially answer with their own and classmates’ observations, interviews, surveys, photos, and artwork. The result was our list of “Initial Questions about the Greenbush” (also in this section) – these questions, sometimes modified or changed, focused each student’s research during our “Great Blue” work periods.
The next step was to develop a protocol for gathering data, ideally a plan that utilized multiple resources and perspectives. Some of the most used resources (see the bibliographies in the eight articles reproduced in this section) were interviews, three books by Catherine Tripalin Murray (volumes I and II of A Taste of Memories from the Old “Bush:” Recipes, Memories & Photographs of the Old Greenbush Neighborhood and Grandmothers of Greenbush: Recipes and Memories of the Old Greenbush Neighborhood, 1900-1925), newspaper articles, and photos from the vast Nick Stassi collection, made available by the Italian Workmen’s Club. All the texts they used were written for adults, challenging for most of these fifth graders who took notes on almost everything they read.