In contrast, inquiry starts with a phenomenon (picture, video or object) but no other information. Students discuss noticings and wonderings, and the teacher, as facilitator, pays close attention. This approach is inclusive of all learners, since every child is an expert at noticing and wondering. The wonderings help guide future instruction. Students become active participants in their learning, honing their thinking skills and independence. They become owners of their learning!
Here is a chart, courtesy of Carolina Biological, highlighting differences between the two approaches.
inquiry at middle gate
Here is one example of how we use inquiry at Middle Gate. In science lab this fall, third-graders sat down at tables to find an unknown tablet (alka-seltzer), a hand lens, a glass of water and a pipette. The only directions were to record noticings and wonderings in their journals. Students commented on the size, shape, color and texture of the tablet, and everyone wanted to know what would happen when they put water on it. Students naturally wanted to know what the tablet was, and in what ways it was used.
Then things got really interesting. Students were invited to choose one variable to change. Many chose sodas or other liquids. Some increased the amount of alka-seltzer. Some added soap or glue into the mix. They then wrote up their own investigation, including materials, procedure and a hypothesis. The exciting part for the students is that no one knew for sure what would happen. As students shared their results, everyone was fascinated by the many investigations and their different results.