This week my grade 8 classes embarked on the ultimate adventure. I would imagine you’re thinking that this field trip must have been big and elaborate with tons of planning and paperwork involved. You’re wrong. We went on the ultimate field trip to the neighbourhood CO-OP grocery store.
Students are currently learning about unit rate and proportions. Each student was given the task to use unit rates to plan the cheapest dinner party for 10 people (Dinner Party Assignment). Each group was given a copy of the Canada food guide and a general outline to their meal so that there was a baseline for comparison. When we got to the grocery store the groups were free to roam about the store in search of the best deal.
Students made comments like, “grocery shopping is way more difficult than I thought it would be” or, “food is so much more expensive than I would have guessed.” Students were not able to buy junk food, but instead had to plan a healthy meal. Students that are stereotypically not engaged in day-to-day tasks were captivated by this task. I even asked one of the classes after we returned to school if they would have found the tasks as meaningful had I given them a laptop or flyers and asked them to complete the task, I was answered with a resounding “NO”.
On another level, students were actually engaging in conversations with customers. At one point a lady went to grab a block of cheese and a students said to her, “that’s a good choice, we’ve done the math and that’s the cheapest block of cheese you can get!”. She responded with a simple “thank you.” Other customers were more intrigued by the large number of grade 8 students in the grocery store and wanted to find out more of what was going on. One gentleman asked a group of students if they knew how to prepare the carrots they were “buying” for their dinner party. When the students said no, he gave them a mini lesson on how to best cook carrots. It was great to see so many customers having positive interactions with my students, when typically grade 8 students have a bad reputation.
As I told my Assistant Principal who accompanied one of the groups on the field trip, at the end of the day I am a math teacher and I have to assess their ability to do the math. However, the hidden curriculum in this trip (and much more important to life) is that students leave with an understanding of how to be a smart, effective shopper, understanding that the unit rate is provided on each price tag and knowing that depending on their budget they won’t always be able to eat the foods that they would like to or know they should.
Finally, as teachers we tend to collaborate lots with colleagues and ask for feedback from other professionals, but sometimes might overlook the significance of the student perspective. I asked students for feedback on the assignment, so that I could make changes from their point of view for next year. Students asked if they could map out a daily meal plan as they were curious how the cost of breakfast, lunch and dinner would differ, or if they could compare the prices of various grocery stores to see which one actually gave the better deal. I find it really interesting as a teacher when students are so engaged in a task that they want to take the learning even deeper. It definitely gives me lots to think about for next year and even as I look at where we are heading in January!
Until next time,