Don't those empty tree stumps look inviting? Home school students from Unity are learning how to study nature like scientists this fall and we are using our new forest classroom near the Eco Ag Center as our homebase.
Inquiry Based Learning
Inviting students into learning by exciting their curiosity and allowing them to explore is what inquiry-based learning is all about. The outdoors are a living laboratory and nature study lends itself perfectly to this kind of learning experience.
What if I told you, I have walked the woods near these stumps many times, but recently, I noticed something I had never seen before? Would you get excited? Would you want to observe it too?
That's exactly what I told a handful of students and then I gave them an opportunity to observe the new organisms for themselves and record as much information as possible about them in their journals along with any questions that came up.
The students were actively engaged the entire time, sharing an observation here, posing a question there. After the initial observation period, they gathered together to share what they noticed and what they wondered about these new organisms.
The questions generated are the starting point to planning investigations. With their curiosity piqued, they are now motivated to learn more. This is the perfect time for sharing content. They will need to know how to choose a testable question, decide what data they need to collect, what tools they need to use, and plan how they will record the data before they continue.
Inquiry-based learning isn't about asking students the right questions, it's about providing a hook that excites curiosity, so the students will generate their own questions. Then, the educator can facilitate the learning in a way that guides them towards a better understanding of the topic or intended focus.
For example, in this lesson, the discovery of a "new species" was the hook that created excitement, but the focus was on practices scientists use to learn about nature.