Mind mapping the soil

Designed into these learning stories:
Tell a Story
Create an Object
Create a Game
Creando un objeto
Creando un juego
Bir Hikaye Anlat
Bir Nesne Oluştur
Bir Oyun Oluştur
Tárgy elkészítése
Játék elkészítése
Contando una historia


Mr K wants students to engage with a complex topic (soil science) using mind-maps. Mind mapping is a simple methodology that allows collaborative and deep exploration of difficult and multi-faceted topics.

Over a class period, a lively brainstorming session takes place. Brainstorming is a critical component of creating a mind map, so the groups are instructed to brainstorm as their first step. Mr K presents contents and resources about soil science, using them as prompts for the class discussion.  Small post-it notes are used at this stage because the groups can write ideas on the post-it notes and then shuffle them as many times as necessary to create effective categorizations.

After the brainstorm, students create digital version of their mind-maps using free web-based software like Popplet. This digital version will stay online throughout the project and will be updated as work progresses.

A trip to a site is arranged and students are divided into groups. They take samples, pictures, and videos; some make drawings. Once back in the classroom, students work individually or in pairs over two lesson periods on tasks pre-designed by the teacher.  In each subgroup, two or more students will analyse the soil using a microscope, two or more will gather additional geographical or geo-chemical information about the site; two or more will digitally edit the pictures or the videos overlaying their research notes and make a structured taxonomy of all the potentially relevant things that they observed.

Over another class period, a discussion supported by presentations takes place; the aim is to share findings and activities so that students complement each other’s findings without missing out. For example, in each subgroup those who used a microscope are asked to explain to the others what they did, how they did it and what they found, and so forth. All the findings, the pictures, the videos and the additional information are finally uploaded to Popplet to update the mind maps, which keep growing and now include video and audio elements as well. New associations are found and this supports even further understanding and the retention of the scientific terminology.

The whole exercise also allows a dyslexic student in the classroom to fully engage, as the approach helps him structure ideas concretely, while the graphical associations of the mind map make it easier for him to process the written text.  The creation of mind maps in small groups instead of by individual students facilitates a deeper analysis of the topic through dialogue rather than instruction. Developing associations between terms and notions also helps students understand and memorise words and concepts.


The scenario relies on collaborative knowledge building and on the classroom discussions facilitated by the teacher. There is also a strong element of inquiry-based learning. Assessment could be performed by checking students’ understanding and scientific vocabulary before and after the project. This data can be used to plan further or remedial instruction or homework/reading (formative assessment).

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This post is also available in: Turkish

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