I’m a pre-service teacher who is a little scared about teaching inquiry-based science in the classroom! What are some things you wish you knew before teaching elementary school science?
—K., New Mexico
I understand your anxieties about inquiry-based learning but think of it as the most natural thing a child does! Adults just tend to get in the way of inquiry by insisting that children do it our way or that they need to learn a bunch of facts and fill in some worksheets before they can unleash their curiosity. Let go of the idea that you need to be the expert, and you may be surprised by the direction your class goes and the kind of questions students may have—simple but very thought-provoking questions, like “What color are bacteria?” “Why do we fart?”
One of the bravest things a teacher can say is, “I don’t know!” followed up with “Let’s figure that out!” Your job is to provide the opportunity for students to ask questions and explore them scientifically. So, teach them about designing fair tests, controlling variables, making objective observations, measuring and recording accurately, and presenting their findings. You can teach these things as you and your students explore their questions as partners.
I wish I had learned more about letting go and trusting in young minds to come up with interesting questions. Instead, I was a typical “stand and deliver“ teacher until I had the confidence to let go.
Hope this helps!
Photo credit: Department of Defense Education Activity via Flickr