First Graders Can Do Scienceby: Candice Marshall

Journal ArticleDigital resources are stored online in your NSTA Library.

Student inquiry projects with first graders? What a frightening idea! At least that’s what one first-grade teacher thought until she actually did it. Although she taught and extended the inquiry-based science kits with gusto, she had done little to empower her students to seek the answers to their own questions, truly embracing the spirit of inquiry. This became especially clear when she joined the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Student Inquiry Project. One of their responsibilities as a part of this effort was to support students in preparing student inquiry projects (SIPs) for a conference so a year was spent working toward this goal step by step.

  • Elementary
Publication Date

Community ActivitySaved in 373 Libraries

Reviews (9)
  • on Tue Jul 11, 2017 9:54 AM

This article gives the guidance for teachers planning to teach science in first grade. I encounter the process of planning the actual inquiry part as part of the actual teaching. I think it is fundamental for our students in elementary. Something that I see is still not strong is the literacy part that support the teaching of the concepts. It was clear that the teacher on this article found resources like the 1999 book about how scientist actually are, but we need to push for more resources that show a bigger and a better picture of what scientists are, and to show a diversified version of all the people who work in this area.


  • on Wed Nov 30, 2016 2:29 AM

I really liked this article and found it extremely helpful to me because I am planning on teaching first grade and I have been concerned with how I would be able to do inquiry based lessons with students that are so young. I liked the idea of directing students to concrete thinking by telling them that we like to test questions that begin with “What would happen if..”. I never thought about starting to have students develop their thinking this way and helping to lead them to deep thoughts. I also like how the article made sure to point out that with first graders things need to be simple and straight forward and to the point. I feel like this was something as a teacher, would be extremely important for us to remember. I would use the ideas in this article to really help me my first few years, and even years after to help my guide doing inquiry based lessons/activities/experiments in my classroom. This article helped give me ideas on how start helping students come up with their inquiry questions, how to help myself manage all the experiments, and how much work the students should do on their own or with my help. I also liked how this article talked about incorporating writing into it and putting the presentations together. I will take all these ideas back into my classroom and use them to incorporate more inquiry based lessons into my classroom. I can also use these in other subject areas and not the science curriculum. This article was extremely helpful and will be useful in my future classroom. I also think this article is important because we need to remember that students even as young as 1st grade can do inquiry lessons and not just inquiry questions that we come up with, but they can come up with their own questions as well.

Heather Troy  (Owasso, OK)
Heather Troy (Owasso, OK)

  • on Tue Nov 22, 2016 11:28 AM

This article does an awesome job of explaining how first graders can be engaged in science class. I plan on teaching the younger grades of elementary (kindergarten and first grade) and so I found this article very beneficial. I feel more confident in my ability to create an inquiry based classroom after reading this article. I wasn’t sure how to incorporate this into a kindergarten or first grade classroom but now I have a better understanding. The author does a great job going into detail of the entire process of the steps the students take in order to complete their assignment. I really enjoyed reading all about the different steps.

Carly W
Carly W

  • on Tue Oct 18, 2016 2:01 AM

This article does an excellent job of painting a picture of how first graders can actively be engaged learners of inquiry science based practice. Candice Marshall is a first grader teacher who decided to introduce her young learners to the tradition of presenting their science experiment at the school’s science conference. She went about it through the inquiry process. In the article, she expands on the steps she took in order for her students to get through the inquiry steps successfully and with the most they could take away from learning. She first explains the process of formulating questions for their investigations. She allowed her students to have choice in this process, which in the end proved to us this is significant in science learning. She then explains on to how to keep everything organized in order for maximum learning to occur. Then she explains the investigation phase, how she incorporate writing and how the final results of her students participation in inquiry investigations. The biggest insight she provides us with is stressing how much the kids enjoyed the process of managing their own questioning, leading their own investigation, and presenting their findings with such pride. This article explains perfectly how even our youngest learners can indeed be scientists.

Mariana D
Mariana D

  • on Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:55 PM

I thought that this article was great. It was very informative and the projects that the students did were quality. When the author states, "I had them pick something they would really like to use in their investigations and guided them from there," I can't help but to think there is no better way to go about this. Letting the students come up with questions on their own and have choice is a great way for them to dive in to inquiry. The questions that they worked with were testable, on level, and appropriate. The activity in this article is something that I would use in my own classroom one day.

Karli Wheeler
Karli Wheeler

  • on Mon Oct 17, 2016 8:57 PM

This article is wonderful for anyone who is thinking of working with younger students. I want to teach first grade myself, so this article was very beneficial for me. Candice Marshall takes us through her process that she took with her own first graders. She spent the entire year preparing her students by creating testable questions, organizing their projects, investigating, and preparing their presentations for the science fair at the end of the year. She even held “science conferences” during the year to share as a community their findings. Having read this article I feel more confident in my ability to teach inquiry projects with younger students.

Cierra  (Wellston, OK)
Cierra (Wellston, OK)

  • on Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:01 PM

This article was extremely helpful because my goal is to become a first grade teacher. The author walks us through the process of helping students create testable questions, organizing their projects, conducting investigations, and preparing and presenting their findings. She even explained how she was able to incorporate writing into the process. When the students completed the process and presented their data, the teacher held a conference with them. While this process seems a bit scary, after reading this article I am much more confident in my ability to create an inquiry based classroom.

Sarah Alleman  (Stillwater, OK)
Sarah Alleman (Stillwater, OK)

  • on Tue Mar 29, 2016 11:13 PM

This article tells the story of how the author began science inquiry projects with her first graders for a conference that was held in May. She spent the entire year preparing her students by creating testable questions, organizing their projects, investigating, and preparing their presentations. The conference was a success, and the students felt confident enough to answer questions about their projects because they developed the projects on their own. The students felt empowered! I believe that this is a very informative article for any first grade teacher who is looking to begin science inquiry projects with his or her students. I agree that it is a frightening idea, but after reading the article I began to think of ways that I could do something similar in my first grade classroom. I agree that it would be a year-long task, but it makes me excited to think of all the reading, writing and math that would be integrated into inquiry projects

Kimberly White
Kimberly White

  • on Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:31 AM

This article is a wonderful account of how a first-grade teacher started at the very foundation of creating a classroom of inquiry and investigation with her students. The goal was to have her students create and present their Student Inquiry Projects at a Student Inquiry Conference. The author tells the story of the entire process of her students’ journey from identifying their investigable question, conducting their investigation, and displaying and presenting their results at the Conference. It was great to see how the teacher integrated literacy skills along with the science inquiry.

Kathy Sparrow  (Delray Beach, FL)
Kathy Sparrow (Delray Beach, FL)

Free - NSTA Members

$0.99 - Nonmembers

Login or Create a Free Account to add this resource to your library.