Images of Inquiry in K-12 Classrooms

From the earliest grades, students should experience science in a form that engages them in the active construction of ideas and explanations and enhances their opportunities to develop the abilities of doing science. (National Research Council, 1996, p.121)

Chapter 2 introduced the fundamental concepts that underlie inquiry in science classrooms. It described inquiry not only as a means to learn science content but as a set of skills that students need to master and as a body of understanding that students need to learn. It detailed the five essential elements of classroom inquiry, from engaging with a scientifically oriented question to communicating and justifying explanations (Table 2-5). And it discussed the use of instructional models to organize and sequence inquiry-based experiences.

This chapter looks at the concepts introduced in Chapter 2 in practice. It consists largely of classroom vignettes that show how teachers create learning opportunities to help students achieve science standards that incorporate the essential features of inquiry and are supported by instructional models. In the first vignette, a class of third graders learns basic ideas from the life science standards, several of the abilities of inquiry, and aspects of technological design from a study of earthworms. In the second vignette, a class of eighth graders learn content from the earth and space science standard and strengthen their inquiry abilities through an investigation of the phases of the moon. In the final two vignettes, classes of high school students engage in inquiry-based units involving forces (included in the physical science standards) and

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