Inquiry based learning is the process of having your students learn through their own research questions. My favourite “type” would be guided inquiry because it allows for teachers to give a topic to the students to work in. However, there are other types of inquiry based learning that are more strict, giving narrower options for choice, and more broad.
In my first semester of education school, I went to a professional development discussion hosted by the Education Student’s Society. The discussion was titled, “Become a Superhero Middle School Teacher”, and the lecturer was an “award” winning middle school teaching in Regina, Saskatchewan. He had been given the title of the city’s best teacher a few years before, published by the Prairie Dog magazine. The most important thing I took away from his talk was the concept of “genius hour”.
When I started to do more research for this blog post and reflection, I found more and more information on this concept of “genius hour”. Essentially, it’s an hour a week where students can explore, learn, and research whatever they like, and then they present on it at the end of the term. Teachers can make it as guided as they’d like, and the length is also option. What teachers seem to love about this project idea is that it hits a bunch of outcomes appropriately and “naturally” by the end of the year— not to mention, students love it.
Genius Hour would look like this: at the beginning of the term, students will be explained that they get an hour in the afternoon every Wednesday to explore something that they are interested in. They must, for the rest of the term, research it and document their research. They then can perform experiments, practice their skill, or learn more about their topic in their own style. Some students would prefer to document their learnings and milestones in writing, while others would prefer to document them on video or online. Technology could be a huge part of this project, and a website like Twitter could be used to keep the project up to date.
The last “task” would be performing what they’ve done throughout the term to their class. Teacher’s have said that this is the most amazing part because it brings students out of their shell. Some students show their talents of singing, playing instruments, rapping, taking pictures, or even doing complicated math! The options are endless.
For environmental education, inquiry based learning offers the freedom for students to explore areas that they are really interested in, and as a result get more out of the class. This also allows for the students to learn from themselves, and trust their knowledge on how they learn best as students. Teachers can use interdisciplinary inquiry based projects in their class while also requiring that their is an environmental aspect achieved. This could be as simple as, “all written journals and reflections must be written outdoors”. For this purpose, students could use the outdoors as a meditative and calming ground, and explain why they felt this was asked of them in their presentation.
The inquiry cycles I have used have been fairly unique, and possibly more simple than the traditional ones. My cycle is generally like the following:
Assess what’s asked of me –> reflect on how I feel about what’s asked of me —> ask questions if needed —> find an interest in the topic (if guided) —> reflect on my topic and why it’s interesting to me —-> research my topic —-> ask questions that have come up since research —-> perform experiments/interviews/deeper understanding exercises related to topic —–> put work together into a presentation —-> reflect on work done —-> present
This process has worked for me, since I’m both an inquisitive and reflective person. I’ve used this process in ESCI 302 through our guided inquiry assignment, as well as during our poem assignment. In conclusion I feel like these types of assignments and projects make people grow, because they teach us to push ourselves and trust ourselves. This is why I took dried leaves from a bouquet and glued them to the sheet that says “genius hour” for this blog post. I wanted to demonstrate that projects like genius hour will help our students grow into better and smarter people.