Week 5: Inquiry Teaching

This week in class we did an out trip to George J Elementary to hear from Rebecca Bathurst Hunt about how to enhance our inquiry in the classroom. She co-authored alongside Trevor Mackenzie for the book “Inquiry Mindset.” Rebecca’s passion was apparent and she seemed to be very authentic in the way she approached inquiry and teaches in her classroom. I think authenticity is key in inquiry and that is why it has worked so well in her classroom.

One of the biggest things for me on this visit was seeing how she set up her classroom to maximize inquiry. On the board she had pictures of the students heads that had individual thought bubbles for their inquiry questions. This idea was great because when a new topic was choosen each of them could ask their own inquiry question and be reminded of that question as they explored the topic. I also noticed she had an area in her class designated for quiet reflection. This area included a meditation pillow to sit on and the illusion of “walls” so the student could retreat there if they needed some time to think, reflect, or just take a break. While working with inquiry I think it is important to be able to reflect on what has been learned and what the next step will be. This space allowed for this to occer. I noticed that in the classroom there was lots of manipulative for hands on work. I think this was great for the children, especially because this was a younger class (kindergarten), because hands on learning is important for discovery which is essential in the inquiry model of learning.

The current topic was on space. I was blown away by the time and effort put into the “space station” in the classroom. It was clear that Rebecca strived for an authentic experience where students can use these topic specific manipulative to learn more about space. I thought this way of teaching inquiry was amazing because students really get a chance to try out what it would be like to work in a space station! These kinds of experiences give students the opportunities at a young age to find unknown passions and discover things about the world and themselves in an engaging way.

Another thing that I took away from this inquiry based visit was how Rebecca taught with the intention to spark inquiry. She loved starting lessons with books because it provoked questions and thoughts related to the topic. She also liked using Giphy’s and pictures to provoke thinking in students.

Pictures such as the one below give wonder and excitement about a topic. It is also ideal to direct students learning for inquiry. For instance, this picture could spark discussion on why the water disperses at the bottom, how the mountain was formed, why different vegetation grows at the bottom and top of the mountain. From these questions the new topic could be about water cycles, ecosystems, tectonic processes. I think using pictures is ideal in classrooms because it can be directed while still inspiring students to creatively think of what they want to learn about. This process can also be used with any grade!

A Giphy can be used most effectively with older grades. This is because younger students may get to caught up in the specific movement of the photo that they cannot think beyond what they are seeing. Using this method enhances the previous idea of using a static picture by showing aspects of something that moves. Questions that could arise for instance would be, how is this butterfly flying? What keeps it in the air?

From these stimulants Rebecca asked 3 questions.

  • What do you see?
  • What do you know?
  • What do you Wonder?

I think this entire process worked well for inquiry. It is guided inspiration that allows for students creativity. The three questions are specific and helpful for expanding that creativity. It lets students really engage with the material and dig deep to find what they want to learn about.