Diving (in the shallow end with pool floaties) into Inquiry (and how to implement it in science.)

Oct 25, 2016

Last week, our Ed-tech class took a visit to the newly refurbished Oak Bay Highshool.  I hadn’t been in since the new building went up and the first impression consensus amongst many of us was: “Wow.”

The high ceilings, wooden panneling, updated technology, and the open-concept classrooms were modern and refreshing, setting the stage for what was to come.

Trevor MacKenzie greeted us in the alcove, and we wandered up the stairs to his very cool classroom.  It was thoughtfully decorated & equipped with an open garage-style door, microwave, a station for coffee and tea, student work,  and of course inquiry posters.four-pillars.png

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Images by Trevor MacKenzie

Trevor educated and inspired us about how he supports his students diving into inquiry.  By careful scaffolding, and slowly introducing more freedom as the students get more comfortable with the concept, students were able to create some amazing passion projects to demonstrate their learning.

Check out Trevor’s student work here on his blog.

I think I will definitely try to incorporate inquiry into my science class.  Inquiry in science might have to look a little different than inquiry in English, which is Trevor’s specialty, but I have been brainstorming to come up with a couple ideas.

Inquiry in Science Ideas:

  1.  Instead of having a rigid lab with instructions and an expected outcome, give students all the materials, all the knowledge they might require, and then let them design and carry out their own experiment.  Students can control a variable or two, create a hypothesis, and see how their results match up.  I think this would be a great way to allow them to be creative, intuitive, and critical in their analysis.
  2.  At the end of a unit/or year, students could select a favourite topic already covered, and formulate a specific inquiry question.  They then could spend time in and outside of class researching this question, and then displaying what they have discovered and learned in their chosen medium (essay/slide show/video/art project/the sky is the limit.)
  3. Before a new unit is started, see what students already know, and encourage them to ask a question (big or small) about the unit.  Get them to hold on to this question, and as the unit nears the end, see if they learned what they needed in order to answer their inquiry, and if not, support them and give them the tools to seek out the information to answer it.
  4. Offer more choices for students to demonstrate their learning!  Assessing sience always seems to be all about tests and lab reports.  Why not allow students to create mind-maps, make connections between science and material from other classes, allow them to express their knowledge creatively.  It takes away the anxiety from tests, and allow students to pick something that they enjoy/are comfortable with to show you what they know and what they can do.

Overall, what really resonated with me from our day with Trevor MacKenzie at Oak Bay was: in order to implement inquiry, we need to not be afraid to let go and allow students to explore ideas, concepts, and course content in their own terms. BUT the key is scaffolding, and offering the support and resources that they will require in order to do this.

I also fully stand by the diving board model of starting students off with a structured inquiry, to slowly get them comfortable with this newer concept of instruction.  Especially since I will be a new teacher, it will be a great way to build skills and learn together with my students :).

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