Inquiry in a Nutshell

“I needed to formulate the questions first for myself. It’s not like I knew them and put them in a poem for other people. The poem is a process, a way for me to discover questions, to ask them clearly or to discover the results of certain suppositions. Suppositions are a form of questioning. “Suppose your father was a redbird” is, actually, the question, “What would it have been like if your father was a redbird?” I wrote a poem to find out what that might be like … but, for myself, experimenting with language and putting it together in different ways around a central image or experience just to see what happens, what tiny ray might suddenly illuminate something heretofore not acknowledged. Language can be creative in that way. And also by having fun with language and its sounds, playing with it, letting it go in odd directions. A new question, a new supposition, may arise. Many of my poems, in my mind, end with a new question to investigate.” From a Missouri Review Interview of poet Pattiann Rogers

Inquiring minds want to know. Every summer we close each day of Introduction to Inquiry and Advanced Inquiry with some kind of exit slip that asks teachers to reflect on what they learned through that day’s activities.

Engaging in Inquiry as Professionals in the Summer

Engaging in Inquiry as Professionals (Summer), Earle Elementary Teacher Cheryl Widman with STEM Institute’s Bill Grosser

As we gear up for the upcoming summer’s programming, and begin the final leg of the school year, here’s a little review of what some of last summer’s participants responded when asked to fill in the blank.

The most important thing about inquiry teaching is __________________________?

Here were their responses:

Getting students to ask critical questions ON THEIR OWN!

• Construction of knowledge

• Discovery

• Teaching children to think

• Exploration/Discovery

• Children learning to think for themselves, discover for themselves

• It’s fun and makes kids wonder and think

• Having fun while expanding knowledge

• Aiding students as they construct their own thinking

Further, it’s also important

To engage students, have appropriate assessments, and have fun!
• To ask open-ended questions
• To facilitate the construction of knowledge
• To encourage curiosity, using prior knowledge as a foundation when exploring concepts
• To increase hands-on activities and to use them to discover things
• To plan questioning for misconceptions
• To learn from mistakes
• To learn from each other
• To have perseverance
• To explore new concepts
• To provide students the opportunity to explore
• To give adequate wait time after asking a question, so that all students have an opportunity to think and many possibilities are generated

After some months of engaging in inquiry-based instruction, are these holding true in your classroom? How might you expand inquiry so that you see more of these elements of inquiry flourishing in your classroom and school? The nutshell contains the seed only, and every seed requires the right conditions for growth. How might you further foster that growth in the remaining months of the school year?

Engaging in Inquiry in Your Classroom — Amanda Conway, Pershing Elementary, Chicago

Engaging in Inquiry in Your Classroom — Amanda Conway, Pershing Elementary, Chicago

Sometimes revisiting the foundational concepts is the best way forward. These insights from teachers provide a fantastic touchstone for both your planning and your reflection on practice. You may not need to imagine if your father was a redbird, but it might be enlightening to imagine your students, yes, those squirmy kids in front of you, as the scientists and engineers of the future.

~ Penny

To learn more about Golden Apple’s STEM Institute, click here.


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