Inquiry-Based Learning in the Science Classroom (Transcript)
Student: This is still settling but we found a lot of little organisms.
Student: That's so cool.
Student: The real question we're trying to answer here is, if it's safe to tube in the water, because I swim here every summer and I just realized how dirty it was.
Ian: When we design a science lesson to be an inquiry based lesson, we start everything around a central question that may last for one class period or a series of class periods. And then they work through some experiment and conversation, perhaps some reading and they work together. And the answers are always just a little bit out of reach for the kids until they really reach a point where they have this sense of discovery.
Each of you are going to be in a group where you're going to sample one parameter down at the creek, and then you're going to make an infographic about your parameter. So for example, maybe it will be temperature and turbidity, and then ultimately, what you're going to have to decide in your final prompt is going to be answering this question: would you recommend to your friends coming from out of town that they go tubing in Boulder Creek?
Alison: Well, if you just asked a question and then gave the answer, it would be the same as if you just read the textbook, so we don't like to do that. We like to ask the question and then give a lot of different experiences, both through media, through discussion, through research, so kids can start to answer that question themselves.
Ian: When we actually go down to the creek, it's an exciting day for the kids. We've talked up the idea that we're really in an outdoor classroom.
Let's find a spot and let's sit down and start working on our physical survey of the area everybody, so you'll work on your map first.
Suddenly, they're looking at it through a different lens. They're looking at it through a lens as a place where we're now going to be doing some sampling and some scientific thinking. If the water appears clear, is it clean? And then if it's not clean, what does that mean?
Jessica: Mister Schwartz gave us bugs that can live in healthy water and bugs that can live in unhealthy water. We're going to find which bugs we find in here, and if they're all unhealthy water bugs, then we're going to know that this is unhealthy water.
Student: I think it's five ppm.
Student: Five ppm.
Student: From what we found, there wasn't as much nitrate as we thought there would be.
Alison: We would still go swimming, even though it seems pretty dirty, but we know that it's just, there's a lot of organisms in here, and that leads us to believe that it's actually pretty healthy.
Ian: And we spend the next class period sort of going through that data and they put that into a poster, an infographic, where they can actually share with the class in a way that's relevant to the kids, something that's kind of flashy and interesting. What is the data that our group got, and then, what do we do with that data if we look at everyone's data together? So kids reach their conclusions a couple days after we do our sampling.
Alison: Because sometimes when you're just reading from a book, you don't really think about how this is actually real life and this is how it actually works.
Ian: We're working through some question together and we're discovering things as we go. And kids always bring with them knowledge, and very often it turns out that the kids teach me a lot, and we're all sort of learning together.