I'm a big fan of interest-led unit studies. I love creating our own as we go along. I plan to share some of the resources I come across in the process. Last year when my 3 year old was curious about planes and pilots, we learned about Amelia Earhart (she loved this book on tape from the library: Young Amelia Earhart) and we plan to continue lessons on flight. During her obsession with The Little Mermaid, I tried to look up unit studies around/related to mermaids and could find very little, so I created one myself that incorporated fairytale along with learning about ocean animals (specifically ones in the story, such as octopus, crab, seagulls, etc.), the differences with the way a fish breathes and a human does, math with seashells, etc. Among others, SeaWorld's websites offers wonderful free teacher guides and classroom activities: SeaWorldjustforteachers.
Interest-Led Unit Studies cannot be done with every subject, but a great deal of every subject can be fit into these topics one way or another. For my family, it won't ever replace the need for formal lessons, but I do love the way we can flexibly explore and learn various subjects and incorporate field trips and further study based on the interest of the child.
Last spring my daughter was fascinated with Helen Keller. We found a great book through the library, "Helen Keller: The World in Her Heart" by Lesa Cline-ransome (World in Her Heart) and we not only enjoyed the lessons of a noble and historical woman, but we explored and studied our senses, what it would be like to only touch, taste and smell, not see or hear. Found the Helen Keller Online Kids Museum http://www.afb.org/braillebug/hkmuseum.asp We watched the Disney version movie of this story and coincidentally were able to arrange for our homeschool group to go see the dress rehearsal of "The Miracle Worker" performed at a local theatre for free. My daughter, who loves to act out everything, delighted in the experience and even got to meet the cast afterward, tell the little girl playing the role of Helen that she did a "good job pretending" and pet the real dog they used in the play.
Since then, she occasionally plays Helen Keller, and does make-believe sign language and has me be the teacher, Anne Sullivan, who she brings her toys and things to and makes me "sign" what they are.
To this end, this fall we have started learning about Koko, the famous signing gorilla. She loves it. (And yes, she plays Koko, I'm Penny her trainer/teacher, and her little brother is Michael, the boy gorilla!) They make some wonderful scholastic books about Koko, that my daughter has delighted in, including "Koko's Story," "Koko's Kitten," and "Koko-LOVE!" (Koko-LOVE) and after looking into it some more, we found out there is a neat, free kids club website for Koko, http://koko.org/kidsclub/ where they offer even further Koko curriculum materials and you can write to Koko, who is very much alive and well and is now 39 years old.
The Gorilla Foundation - Kids
Woodside, CA 94062
My daughter has been busy drawing pictures and writing letters to send to her new favorite gorilla. We're also finding fun gorilla related crafts and lessons like this free paper puppet (gorilla puppet) and the mountain gorilla portion of the National Geographic Kids website (NGK).
To top it off, I just found out one of the members of our homeschool group has a sister earning a degree in ASL-related studies, and she is willing to teach a free sign language class to the kids at our weekly homeschool co-op next trimester. I just love when learning falls all into place like that.
What are some of your favorite interest-led unit studies?