21 September 2013

Inquiry as Learning - An Environmental Example

Increasingly, my daily challenge in classrooms is how to foster inquiry as a way of learning. As I face rows of faces waiting to perform a task, answer a question, play a game, I wonder how long it will take before students are ready to inquire, to demand alternatives to given realities, to offer creative solutions to problems which affect their daily lives. 

As I have often pointed out, environmental topics are usually common in educational syllabi - safe and globally significant, they offer learners the opportunity to think through problems which are both local and global.  Only this past week I have come across articles both nationally and internationally, pointing out how
 the politics water, for instance,  will be determining in coming years - an issue which has been constantly mentioned for the past 20 years or more.

Living in the desert, where rainfall is sparse and water consumption is high, this is definitely a topic I don't take lightly.  It is also a topic which affects us all, no matter where one lives. 

"Being literate in the information age involves the ability to find meaning in the vast barrage of diverse messages that form our learning environment. Information literacy involves being able not only to locate information, but also to interpret it within the context of our real-life experiences. Information literacy is the ability to use information meaningfully in all aspects of our daily lives. (Stripling 1999, p.6)"

Inquiry learning implies interpreting information, making information meaningful to one's context.

Asking questions, hypothesising, investigating, constructing meaning and sharing with others are critical skills which need to be developed while learning. 

There is a wide offer of environmental sites, offering information, games and a range of activities, while at the same time, especially for those teaching with iPads, an equally rich range of apps to choose from, which offer learners the opportunity to express their stories and share ideas and solutions,  in regard to issues related to the environment. 

As points of inquiry, the following diagram offers a clearer approach of implementation:

Some sites on the environment worth exploring: 

What is an ecological footprint? 

Into the Outdoors 

The Habitable Planet 

What is a Catchment?

The Bio Cube , which is a great tool to use for biographies, may also be used for science projects, when students think about the environment and present solutions. If projects are not completed in class, ReadWriteThink also offers a solution when learners are working with interactives:

Connecting, wondering, investigating, constructing, expressing, reflecting: key words in the messy, chaotic learning process. 

Key concepts as well to foster a stronger learning inquiry frame of mind in our learners today. 

How do you foster inquiry learning in your classrooms? 

Further suggestions and references:

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