I am a first grade teacher at Nathan Hale School in New Haven, Connecticut. My classroom includes twenty-six students with a wide variety of academic abilities, interests, and prior knowledge. I have a handful of students with special education needs and accommodations. Nathan Hale is a school with students that come from a variety of backgrounds and have a diverse set of needs and skills. Inquiry based learning has been a focus at my school, but at times it is a struggle to initiate and create units and plans that promote questioning. Questioning is a skill that needs to be fostered in order for students to be comfortable with sharing or have beliefs that their questions have value. In my classroom I set my expectations high for students to independently ask and find answers to their own questions. I focus time on having students internalize their learning through exploration and questioning. Students are given many opportunities to investigate information independently, with partners, or in groups.
This unit is designed to build primary students' confidence and ability to ask questions while focusing on living organism's life cycles. The unit will teach students about organisms using an inquiry based method to foster their natural sense of wonder. The lessons will provide time for the teacher to model questioning and for the students to practice questioning. Students will learn that living things go through stages as part of their life cycle. First, students will focus only on plant life cycles. They will learn that during plants' life cycle they have needs for survival. The teacher will model questioning by asking questions and prompting inquiry discussions. Students will ask questions and make hypotheses as well. They will conclude the unit by using their knowledge about plant life cycles to study life cycles of another organism. This will allow them to compare and contrast life cycles and will generate questions and hypotheses about other organisms, based on what they already observe with plants. As a result of this unit, students will gain better skills to ask questions in all areas of life and to seek answers independently.
Science lessons should be a time for students to discover new learning about the world around them. They should have plenty of opportunities to wonder about how and why things work the way they do. Students should ask questions and aspire to learn the answers. I have noticed many times that when I ask students to tell me what they know about a topic the majority of the class is able to explain some basic understanding. However, when I ask students what they want to know about the same topic I typically only have a few students that are able to provide a question. Many times the questions that students are able to formulate are very broad because they don't have enough experience asking specific questions. Questioning is a natural part of thinking and the students I have encountered struggle with this. I believe this could be a potential problem for our youth if they are not fostered in an environment that promotes questioning. John Dewey, a philosopher of education, elaborately describes his theory of questioning and how we think in his book
Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
. He equates questioning with inquiry when he states, "We inquire when we question; and we inquire when we seek for whatever will provide an answer to a question asked." He later goes on to explain the importance of inquiry when he writes, "Inquiry is the lifeblood of every science and is constantly engaged in every art, craft, and profession,"
Without wonder what kind of future does out next generation have? Where will we find our future professionals when the heart of all these fields is inquiry? More time needs to be spent in the classroom on fostering and encouraging children's natural instinct to wonder. This unit will provide plenty of opportunities for students to gain the skills necessary to ask questions and become answer seekers.