Elementary Science

Inquiry-Based Learning in Elementary School

Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:01 PM

I am currently taking a Science Methods course in my graduate level classes in which we have had a heavy focus on inquiry-based learning. I was wondering how beneficial and or effective inquiry-based learning can be at the younger elementary school grades (K-2)? What are some ideas for incorporating this type of learning in these specific grades?

Kevin Wahl
Kevin Wahl
765 Activity Points

Thu Jan 25, 2018 7:04 PM

I believe that inquiry based learning is also extremely beneficial for students especially at the lower elementary grades. Like mentioned by others, this type of learning helps the students think for themselves. There are also different types of inquiry based learning, depending on how much direction you would like to give the students. If you are going to completely hand over the reins to the students this is called an open inquiry. In this inquiry the students will be in charge of coming up with a question/problem, procedure, and results/ analysis. This would be a great way to get the students to think creatively and problem solve. However, for the younger students it could be hard for them to come up with everything on their own. So, for this age group I would recommend a structured inquiry. For this, you as the teacher would come up with the question/problem, and the procedure for everyone to do. Then the students would have to analyze and reason as to why these things occurred. In my science methods class we did an experiment called "dancing raisins for our structured inquiry. We were given the question of, "Why do raisins, when added to a cup of sparkling water float to the top of the cup?" We were also given the procedure of putting five raisins in two cups with the same amount of liquid, one with sparkling water and one with regular water. Then it was our job to analyze why it was that the raisins floated in the sparkling water. I think that this would be a great idea of a structured inquiry for younger elementary grades. You can structure it, but still gets them thinking!

Kennedy Carber
Kennedy Carber
980 Activity Points

Thu Jan 25, 2018 8:13 PM

Kevin,
I am in my first semester of student teaching at an elementary in Houston, Tx. The school has recently moved to a IB curriculum. I am working with 5th grade students and I have to agree with the other posts that it would definitely be to your best interest to guide the questioning. The students, even 5th grade, often have a hard time focusing on specific aspects that are necessary to move forward with the lessons.

Tracy Galle
Tracy Galle
310 Activity Points

Mon Jan 29, 2018 10:52 AM

Hi Kevin! I am currently taking Teaching Elementary School Science, as an undergraduate. I also love using the 5E lesson plan/model for any lesson I want to teach in any subject! I saw that others mentioned it before me but I thought I would dive deeper into it for you! If you are not familiar with the model, it breaks the lesson down into 5 parts. The lesson plan starts with the Engage. This is where you want to capture the students' interest, help them to make connections with that they know and can do, and the teacher provides an orientation to the lessons. It is also important to assess the students' prior understanding of the concepts you will address in the lesson. Next, the Explore phase, you will have the students do a hands-on activity to to explore the concept further. During this phase the teacher, you, needs to keep their hands out! You want the students to define the problem/phenomenon in their own words. The third phase, the Explain phase, is teacher centered. This is where you will teach the concept that you want your students to learn. You can do this through demonstrating, lecturing, reading, or through video or computer-based media. The Elaborate phase follows the Explain phase. Here the students will elaborate on their understanding of what you just taught. Ideally you want the students to interact with each other so they can discuss their ideas and construct a deeper understanding of the concepts. The 5th and final phase is the Evaluate phase. This is where your students can further elaborate on their understanding of the concept, you what they know now and what they have yet to figure out. It is important that you follow these steps in order.  You can not rearrange the order!
I am in class with Kennedy, who posted before me, and I completely agree with what she has to say! If you take what she said and implement using the 5E lesson plan you are golden! There are so many essential features of science inquiry, here are three that I really like:
[ol]

  • The learner engages in scientifically oriented questions.

  • The learner gives priority to evidence in responding to questions.

  • The learner formulates explanations from evidence.

  • [/ol]
    I have attached a short article regarding Next Generation Science Standards and 5E Lesson Plans.

    Keaton Despard
    Keaton Despard
    505 Activity Points

    Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:57 AM

    Hi Kevin! Recently, I have learned a lot about inquiry based learning and how to incorporate it into my lessons. The one thing to remember is that there are four different levels of inquiry based learning. The lowest level is Confirmation Lab. This is where the teacher provides the problem, procedures and results. The next level is the Structured Inquiry. The teacher is responsible for providing the problem and the procedures, the student is responsible for providing the results. Next, is the Guided Inquiry. In this one, the teacher only provides the problem/questions and the students are in charge of providing the procedures and the results. The highest level of inquiry is the Open Inquiry. This is where the students are in charge of everything. The students are the ones that produce the question, they create the procedures to answer the question, and they obtain the results. Open inquiry could be challenging for students K-2, but it definitely is not impossible. Guided Inquiry could also be used with this age group. However, this inquiry could be more challenging with the age group. After you give the students the question, you could have them discuss in a large group what steps they would have to follow to answer the question. This way you aren't giving them the steps, you are allowing them to work together with you assisting if needed. This activity could be used to answer questions related to the seasons or animals. Structured Inquiry might be the best way to incorporate inquiry based learning into your classroom. This way you could give the students the question they need to answer and the procedures they need to follow, then the students can conduct the experiments in their groups. This way you are allowing your students to complete the experiment on their own, but you are providing the structure of the assignment since the age group is so young.

    Tera Porter
    Tera Porter
    400 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:26 PM

    Kevin,
    Like others have stated, inquiry in the classroom is very important. In my experience throughout my schooling in Elementary Education and working as a lead teacher in a daycare, I have learned just how important inquiry is to a child's learning. Not only in science but all aspects of learning, I feel that it is important to involve some type of inquiry. A huge part of a child's learning and understanding is their thought process and carrying out that process themselves. As teachers it is hard sometimes for us to let students struggle and not provide the correct answer. However, this is important for students to go through to work through problems and figure them out themselves. Based on the age and development of the children depends on what exact type of inquiry to use to prompt the children. Starting at the lower grades using Confirmation Lab Inquiry, moving up to Structured Inquiry, Guided Inquiry and then the highest level of Open Inquiry for the higher grades that can do most of the thinking for themselves. All four of these inquiry based learning approaches give the students some accountability of their own learning.

    Jenna Leonard
    Jenna Leonard
    410 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:49 PM

    Hi Kevin,
    As others have stated, inquiry based learning is very beneficial for all grade levels. I feel as though some of the high levels of inquiry are more beneficial for the higher elementary, middle and high school age levels, there are many of the lower levels of inquiry that are more appropriate for the K-2 grade levels. I think that in order to incorporate inquiry based learning in these grades you need to have a focus of using confirmation in the kindergarten levels and then moving towards a structured and guided approach for the 1st and 2nd graders. With these particular levels of inquiry based learning the teacher is providing some guidance for the investigations, but not completely leaving it open to the children's decisions. The fact that they have a portion of the investigation that is solely theirs is very important for them to build their education levels and further their learning in science and defining skills.

    Keela Uhlenkamp
    Keela Uhlenkamp
    390 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:46 PM

    Kevin-

    I am in an Elementary School Science class, as an undergraduate at UNI. I have loved learning about all of the inquiries there are in science! I believe that inquiry based learning is very beneficial for students especially in the lower elementary grades. Kevin, there are also different types of inquiry based learning, The lowest level is Confirmation Lab; this is where the teacher provides the problem, procedures and the results. The next level is Structured Inquiry; the teacher here is responsible for providing the problem and the procedures then the student is responsible for providing the results. Guided Inquiry is where the teacher only provides the problem and the questions and the students are in charge of making the procedures and coming up with the results. The highest level of inquiry is Open Inquiry; this is where the students’ make the question they come up with the procedures to answer the question, and they finalize their results on their own! I know others had mentioned some of the inquiry based learning’s but I thought it would be beneficial for you to see and have them mapped out! I also like that Keaton stated the 5E lesson plan/model! Because I too have loved getting to use this method and learning more about the 5E’s! The 5E’s would also help in planning a specific inquiry/lesson for your students! Good luck!

    Brianna Marvin
    Brianna Marvin
    350 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:46 PM

    Kevin-

    I am in an Elementary School Science class, as an undergraduate at UNI. I have loved learning about all of the inquiries there are in science! I believe that inquiry based learning is very beneficial for students especially in the lower elementary grades. Kevin, there are also different types of inquiry based learning, The lowest level is Confirmation Lab; this is where the teacher provides the problem, procedures and the results. The next level is Structured Inquiry; the teacher here is responsible for providing the problem and the procedures then the student is responsible for providing the results. Guided Inquiry is where the teacher only provides the problem and the questions and the students are in charge of making the procedures and coming up with the results. The highest level of inquiry is Open Inquiry; this is where the students’ make the question they come up with the procedures to answer the question, and they finalize their results on their own! I know others had mentioned some of the inquiry based learning’s but I thought it would be beneficial for you to see and have them mapped out! I also like that Keaton stated the 5E lesson plan/model! Because I too have loved getting to use this method and learning more about the 5E’s! The 5E’s would also help in planning a specific inquiry/lesson for your students! Good luck!

    Brianna Marvin
    Brianna Marvin
    350 Activity Points

    Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:55 AM

    Hi Kevin -

    I am an undergraduate student at the University of Northern Iowa studying elementary education. Additionally, I grew up in the era of No Child Left Behind from the beginning of my k-12 education to the end. I first want to reflect on what my experience in science was through NCLB. No Child Left Behind told me what was important across the curriculum. Specifically in science, I was told what experiments to do, what we were testing, how to set them up, and then I was presented with the data I should have collected from the experiment. The experiments didn't peak my interest in the least; therefore, my interest in pursuing a STEM major went out the window before I truly understood what it meant to be a scientist. As I learn the future of education through my degree, I believe inquiry based education must start early to engage students in critical thinking and exploration. When students have a say in their education, they have ownership and an authentic investment in seeing it through. At younger ages (k-2), it may be best to engage in guided inquiry. This enables teachers introduce and focus students on a particular phenomena, and it allows children to engage in higher order thinking skills through authentic experiences.

    Angel Peterson
    Angel Peterson
    490 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:44 PM

    Hi Kevin!

    Inquiry based learning is important, even in the younger elementary grades. When students engage in inquiry based learning they are developing problem solving abilities and critical thinking skills. Students learn to take ownership over their own learning. Inquiry-based learning provides student the opportunity to practice using creativity and collaboration. To help students learn the routines of science inquiry, you can begin the year with structured inquiry. The structured inquiry model allows the teacher retain more control over the experiment. As you and the students become more comfortable with the procedures of inquiry, you can gradually release control. Guided and open inquiry models allow for increased student autonomy. When creating science inquiry lessons, you should have students explore natural phenomena they encounter in everyday life. This will increase engagement as students can apply their background knowledge to the creation, exploration, and explanation of an experiment. What a great question! I hope this helped!

    Grace Nielsen
    Grace Nielsen
    240 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:53 PM


    Hi Kevin,

    As has been stated previously, inquiry based learning is very important in the elementary grades. Rather than just having students learn outcomes, it allows them to dig deeper into the concepts by letting them explore and understand the processes. When inquiry based learning is first introduced in early elementary, it can’t just be introduced all at once to the students and have them be responsible for all aspects of inquiry, that would just cause confusion and frustration. Inquiry based learning must be introduced gradually. Starting with the teacher providing all aspects of inquiry. The students can then find the solutions by themselves, working all the way up to Open Inquiry, where students are responsible for coming up with their question, the steps for the experiment, and the solution.

    Jay Miller
    Jay Miller
    330 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 3:09 PM

    I firmly believe that inquiry based learning is the best way to teach/learn science. Starting by having your students ask questions about science or what they are working on creates an environment to explore more than just one avenue of science. Using just facts only allows students to discover that specific avenue of science. In my classroom, I will have my students start individually asking questions about science or what we are working on. Then I will have them transition into small groups. Finally, I will have them come together as a large group and we will explore all of our questions about science. I believe this is a great way to teach/learn science because it allows students to discover science from where they are at.

    Cristina Weber
    Cristina Weber
    210 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 7:22 PM

    I am just learning about inquiry learning for elementary students. I think that if implemented correctly it should really help a student to start reasoning and to start thinking critically when it comes to science. I am used to science experiments when I was in school and they would give us step by step directions to come to a final thought. I felt like I was learning but now that I am older and I start to think about the topic I was taught, I realize that I do not really know much more than what was given to me. I can follow steps and be content that I learned something new but not really making any other connections which is what science should be about. Like you, I want to be a resource to my students and provide them with something to get their brains thinking. I hope to learn more about inquiry and what science experiments are more beneficial. It is good to know that others have the same questions as I do.

    Griselda Cazares
    Griselda Cazares
    120 Activity Points

    Fri Dec 08, 2017 12:43 AM

    Hi Kevin!

    I am currently taking a undergraduate course called "Methods of Teaching Science" and we also have a major focus on inquiry-based learning. Personally, I believe that inquiry-based learning is great for students because it gives them a chance to think for themselves instead of merely being told an answer. Furthermore, science is an ongoing investigation of the natural world so even professional scientists are in a continual process of reviewing and asking questions. One way to incorporate this type of learning is to follow the 5E model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, Evaluate) which easily aligns with Next Generation Science Standards. I suggest becoming familiar with both of these, if you are not already! I cannot think of any cons of introducing inquiry-based learning to lower elementary grades.

    Journal Article that addresses your question: https://learningcenter.nsta.org/resource/default.aspx?id=10...._055_01_18 

    I hope some of this is useful to you! 

    Brooke Tatz
    Brooke Tatz
    3268 Activity Points

    Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:55 AM

    Hello Brooke, I like your inclusion of the 5E into Inquiry Based Learning. I agree with you because it is an opportunity for students to engage in activities that increases their metacognitive skills, which promotes higher order thinking. Through this method of learning in science, students can learn by investigating, exploring that creates discussions to the curious young mind.

    Good Article posted.

    Susan Nandlal
    Susan Nandlal
    90 Activity Points

    Wed Jan 24, 2018 10:38 PM

    As an undergraduate student, I completely agree with becoming familiar with the 5E Lesson Plan format. I do understand how to write a 5E; however, I am still working to strengthen them.

    Thank you for the information!

    Jana Block
    Jana Block
    15 Activity Points

    Mon Jan 29, 2018 4:15 PM

    Hi Kevin!

    Like many of the others replying to your post, I am also a big fan of Inquiry Based Learning. I am an undergraduate student studying elementary education, and I did a project that included inquiry based learning. Based on the research I did for this project, students learn well when they are a part of finding an answer to a question. One of my college science classes was largely centered around inquiry based learning. I felt like I was learning so much more because I was actually a part of my learning! It also ended up being a lot of fun, which is really great because it will help get your students more interested in science!

    Ella Duke
    Ella Duke
    205 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 12:13 PM

    Tera-
    I believe that inquiry-based learning is beneficial for all grade levels. I too think that incorporating inquiry into your science teaching comes in variations. We know that their are different kinds of inquiry (confirmation, structured, guided and open) as you stated above, and I think finding the right kind of inquiry for your specific class is essential for engaging your students and teaching science effectively. In most situations higher level students, should and will be able to do open inquiry often. They should be able to generate questions and design and conduct their own investigations. But, I do agree that for younger students like K-2 this might not always be the case, and that’s okay because they are in the beginning stages of inquiry-based learning. And in these grades we are building the foundation for being able to engage in full open inquiry.  So with the younger student’s in our classes we can assess their abilities and what our goals are for a particular lesson, and decide what kind of inquiry is best in that situation. For younger student’s I would say that guided inquiry is a really great place to be because it involves more direction from the teacher. The teacher usually presents the students with the question to be investigated, but then the students have control of how they want to conduct the investigation. An example of guided inquiry that I have recently done in my science methods class was with soda cans of diet and regular coke. The professor gave us the question that needed to be answered (“why does one sink and the other float?”) and as small groups we were able to plan and conduct an investigation to help us understand the phenomena. But, our professor would check our plans so she could give us feedback, and make sure we were on the right track. This activity is great because it allows the students to have more control over their learning, but not full control where the learning goal of the lesson is lost in the process.

    Brianna Martin
    Brianna Martin
    381 Activity Points

    Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:04 PM

    Brianna,

    I am an Undergraduate studying Elementary Education and I agree with you that inquiry-based learning should increase for students as they get older and once into those upper grades, there should be large amounts of open inquiry. However, I do not believe you have to limit your k-2 students to only guided-inquiry. Little kids are curious and have tons of questions about the world around them. I think if we don't give our K-2 students also a chance to openly inquire about the world, they will struggle when they get to upper grades in which open inquiry is prevalent. It is important as you stated to start off with teacher direction through structured and guided-inquiry, but also help students through open inquiry in which they perhaps have more control over the lesson. They may surprise you with what they learn and come up with! In one of my college courses, I had the privilege of teaching a unit on engineering to a small group of second graders. To start the unit, we simply gave students blocks and had they make a marble roll. They did this however they wanted, and soon developed problems that they encountered and wrote down how they fixed them. I think this type of open inquiry allowed students to have fun and really go where they wanted to with the lesson. Student's still learned about problem-solving and Engineering but it was more student controlled!

    Megan Lensing
    Megan Lensing
    405 Activity Points

    Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:35 AM

    Brianna-

    I love all of the information you have here! It's great to know about each stage of inquiry and how there are different levels of meaningful learning that comes from each. In the Elementary School Science Methods class it has been helpful seeing examples of each kind of inquiry in various experiments and being able to reflect on the kinds of experiences we have seen in the field. Like Megan, I once worked with 2nd grade students on an Engineering unit, and although my students were some of the lowest in reading levels, they excelled and had fun working on the science unit. They were able to use open inquiry to explore the materials presented to them and I watched as they defined their own problems and experimented on ways to solve them. This shows that even students who are considered to be below grade level on one subject area can excel in investigations that involve open inquiry, and just like you said, starting the students in these processes at a younger age can benefit their scientific thinking later on!

    Jamie Becker
    Jamie Becker
    405 Activity Points

    Wed Jan 31, 2018 11:15 PM

    Kevin-

    It seems like you have gotten a lot of great responses to inquiry-based learning for younger grades! I know that it may seem quite difficult to allow students to take the reigns of their learning and use evidence to analyze and interpret data to develop conclusions at such a young age. Honestly, I was skeptical myself and did not think that such young students could handle it. Although I am still a preservice teacher, through attending classes I am now, I believe that inquiry-based learning is still available if it taught well and structured for their success. Students can still ask questions and use their observations to formulate questions that they are curious about. The teacher may have to gather supplies and help facilitate the procedure, but students can use their background knowledge and their observation skills to draw simple conclusions, regardless if they are correct or not. This process will take modeling about how to observe, how to ask good questions, and how to draw conclusions from information. Once students learn these skills, there is no reason that they can't start to think scientifically. Teaching students these skills early allows for them to gain critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, and creative thinking skills. There some great articles on this site to help you come up with lesson plans that are effective for your students.
    Hope this helps!
    Katie

    Kaitlin Schlegel
    Katie Schlegel
    1320 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:25 AM

    Megan-

    I really like what you talked about and agree with you when you say younger students should be engaged through open inquiry. I also agree that teacher directed learning is appropriate at the beginning but it is very important to get students learning on their own and figuring ideas out themselves. Especially with science, this gets them creating their own questions and predictions, potentially getting hands on experiences, and opportunities to solve problems and develop explanations on their own. These methods can be very beneficial for students because I, myself, learn best and am fully engaged in my learning when I can have some sort of control.
    I also enjoyed reading your experience of teaching an engineering unit. I work at a daycare and most days I am just shocked at how smart those kids really are at such a young age. I find myself learning from them as well, which also shows another benefit to inquiry-based learning. If I, a 20-year-old, can be learning things from children at the ages between 5 and 10, these children can be learning from each other instead of having one person (teacher) show every student how to learn. Every mind is different and these differences should be shown and used in the classroom. Not only will this improve one's learning of content, but these ideas will improve skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking which will be very beneficial as students progress in their education.

    Mariah Danger
    Mariah Danger
    350 Activity Points

    Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:33 PM

    Kevin,

    I am currently taking Elementary School Science, as an undergraduate at UNI. I believe that using inquiry based learning is very beneficial in the elementary age group! There are so many benefits to including the steps as well as modifying them to being more teacher involved to more student involved as well. When students are involved in this it allows them to engage in learning that develops problem solving abilities as well as critical thinking skills. They learn to use these working with science but these are skills that will translate to their life. Now looking toward you creating the lessons you explore things that you encounter everyday in life, with this it will also increase the engagement of your students since it will relate to them more and create background knowledge. So over all I think that it is important and I hope that this helps answer some of your questions.

    Hayleigh Fecho
    Hayleigh Fecho
    205 Activity Points

    Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:32 PM

    Inquiry-based learning can be very beneficial in not only the upper elementary grades but grades like K-2nd as well. Inquiry based learning is very beneficial because the teacher provides the students with the necessary skills and knowledge to be successful when they are able to choose their own topics of inquiry. They're a lot of great ways for incorporating this type of learning in the classroom. Inquiry based learning is very important to use often at the beginning of the year. Modeling good inquiry and developing a sort of routine will greatly help students when they are doing their free inquiry and are on their own. Another wonderful thing about inquiry based learning is that children can grow off of the teachers inquiries and make the activities their own. They're able to develop their own questions and experiments based off of their interests related to the teachers inquiry. This is a great way to get students engaged and involved in their learning. Inquiry based learning is a great way to foster children's learning when done correctly and something I will use in my future science class.

    Dakota Dix
    Dakota Dix
    420 Activity Points

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