Using the ISTE Student Standards as a framework for further inquiry, my guiding question is:
How can inquiry-based learning prepare students for the future?
When my son was in kindergarten, his class studied the countries within the UK over a few week period. During that time, the children were asked to think about something they loved learning about and do further investigation. Little did we know, his inquiry project would lead to our family vacation a few months later.
As an educator, I appreciated the process the teachers used. Rather than asking students what they wanted to know, assigning a topic, then giving specific categories that needed to be answered, the teachers provided opportunities of learning to activate curiosity. Heather Wolpert-Gawron explained inquiry-based learning in her article saying that by generating excitement and front-loading well, teachers encourage inquiry, and then students develop their own skills as content-area experts.
My son became just that. His teachers called him the “Walking Encyclopedia of Stonehenge.” He learned to use his public library card as we checked out every Stonehenge book in our large library system. Although he was a non-print reader, he practiced his reading skills looking at pictures, photos, charts, and graphs. He listened for facts and new understanding as his family and teachers read to him. Because we grew tired of typing in Stonehenge on the computer, he learned keyboarding, and in the process, writing and spelling. He learned to use the school library’s online databases and the text to speech functions as he explored age-appropriate databases. At home, he learned about the tech tools that would help him search: bookmarking videos and auto-populating search terms. His stamina for concentration grew as he’d read, draw, watch, and learn for hours each day. Even at age 5 we discussed aspects of digital citizenship like making sure the information we learned is from experts in the field or videos we watched were appropriate for the project. His favorite search engine became Youtube. He’d watch every 2-3 minute segment on History Channel, National Geographic, or Discovery Channel. When it came time to design his project, he took photos printed from school when he went beach combing looking for the perfect size, color, and shape of rocks that could replicate a model Stonehenge.
The inquiry assignment brought rigor to the kindergarten classroom. Lessons on literacy, researching, and informational writing were embedded into each of the process. ISTE standards emphasizing the skills and qualities we want for students, enabling them to engage and thrive in a connected, digital world were included in the meaningful project. Wolpert-Gawron goes on to cite concrete examples that support the inquiry model that was implemented in the kindergarten class:
- Students develop questions that they are hungry to answer.
- Research the topic using time in class.
- Have students present what they’ve learned.
- Ask students to reflect on what worked about the process and what didn’t.
Finally, his inquiry sparked curiosity in the rest of us. As an educator, I was encouraged to implement or modify similar inquiry projects into my library classroom. As for Stonehenge…although we did look into flights to England, we decided a long weekend to South Central Washington was more attainable.
Wolpert-Gawron, H. (2016, August 11). What the heck is inquiry-based learning? Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/what-heck-inquiry-based-learning-heather-wolpert-gawron