How Do You Know That?by: Jennifer Folsom, Catherine Hunt, Maria Cavicchio, Anne Schoenemann, and Matthew D’Amato

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The purpose of many animal studies at early grades is to build observation skills, develop a knowledge base, and practice age-appropriate science skills like comparing, describing, and drawing. While these are important learning experiences, the National Science Education Standards also recommend that students engage in scientific inquiry (NRC 2000). Our team of educators, curriculum developers, district administrators, and scientists believe that it is possible and beneficial for even the youngest students to participate in a rigorous scientific inquiry that builds a conceptual understanding of animals and the nature of studying animals. To test this idea, we created an inquiry-based unit on animals, implemented it in kindergarten classrooms, and observed the students’ responses. Our unit focused on guiding students to formulate explanations about animals based on scientific evidence.

  • Elementary
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Reviews (3)
  • on Sun Apr 03, 2016 9:13 AM

This article talks about pushing students a little farther than just observing. When students observe something, in this case guppies, snails, and isopods, they make claims about them. A lot of times those claims don't make sense. When you ask them how do you know that, they usually don't support it with evidence that makes sense. I think it is very interesting how you can carry on a conversation with a child and guide them to the correct thinking. I also like that they are given the opportunity to test out their thinking. For students to really understand it makes sense that they need to see it happen. This questioning can also be difficult for the teacher, you never know what students are going to say! It is hard not to just give them the answer, instead guide them to it. I think this would be something I would like to try in my future classroom so I can start teaching my students early on to use evidence to support their claims.

Kaylee Buck
Kaylee Buck

  • on Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:14 AM

A group of educators developed an inquiry-based unit that focused on guiding students to formulate explanations about animals based on scientific evidence. The group observed student responses in an effort to build observation skills, develop a knowledge base, and practice science skills such as comparing, describing, and drawing. This article describes their efforts and results.

Adah  (San Antonio, TX)
Adah (San Antonio, TX)

  • on Mon Aug 29, 2011 6:50 PM

This elementary lesson using inquiry is so well described that it could be used as a reference to design inquiry lessons at any level. The teachers/authors provide examples of student-teacher and student-student interactions that are typical inquiry and comment about control issues they had to overcome to allow students to direct their own learning. I would recommend anyone who is starting out with inquiry would like this article at any level. I think methods teachers would also find it useful. And the lesson itself is a wonderful example of teaching students to appreciate form and function in biology, as well as appreciation for life and compliments several science kits for that purpose.

Tina Harris  (Fairmount, IN)
Tina Harris (Fairmount, IN)

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