Five Hundred Miles


1. Selection

Ask each student to identify a subject which they might enjoy. It might be a baseball team, a celebrity, a serious disease in search of a cure, a National Park policy on airplane flights in the Grand Canyon - some issue, topic or person which is current. The interest level must be high in order to sustain commitment over many months.

In order to help your students make a wise decision, you might engage them in working as teams to make lists of possibilities. Try it now with a partner. See how many examples you can list for each of the categories provided in the table below.

Open your word processing file and make your lists electronically.

People in the News

























To make a wise choice from such lists, students need to evaluate the choices with regard to criteria . . .

 Personal Interest Will this issue, person or topic keep me curious and eager for 5-6 months?
 Currency Is enough happening or changing for this subject day by day and week by week so that tracking will seem worthwhile and interesting?
 Information Available Am I go to find lots of interesting information on this subject in many places? Will it be easy to find?
 Ongoing Will this issue, person or topic provide a basis for ongoing research? Will Time make a difference or will the information be static?
 Challenging Will this issue, person or topic stretch me and force me to think in new ways?

In your word processing file try applying the above criteria to one of your choices.


2. Questioning

Before your students proceed to information gathering, we want them to spend some time identifying the key questions which should guide their collection. The better job they do of creating good questions, the more pointed and proficient their investigations.

We should encourage students to use software such as Inspiration to create cluster diagrams which will help to define the possibilities and the boundaries of the subject at hand.

Click here for an example of a high school level cluster diagram.

We hope that students will not limit themselves to information gathering, but will, instead, be making and testing predictions, hypotheses and theories. Our goal is to involve them in making meaning from all the information.

Take a few minutes to scan one or more of the following articles about questions and questioning:

These articles can all be found at

The Seemingly Irrelevant Question
Serial Questioners and Umble Pie
Wonder Boxes, Window Boxes and Window Shades
The Great Question Press
Questions as Technology
Online Research Modules
The Question is the Answer: Research Programs for An Age of Information
The Research Cycle
Searching for the Grail: Power Searching with Digital Logic
Telling Questions and the Search for INSIGHT
The Toolbox: Strategies to Encourage Student Questioning

Please do not proceed to the next module until asked to do so.

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Credits: The drawings, photographs and graphics are by Jamie McKenzie.

© 2006, Jamie McKenzie, all rights reserved.
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