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Documenting Science Through an Active Inquiry Process

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Keywords: photography, inquiry investigation, Science
Subject(s): Earth Science, Technology, Photography, Science
Grades 4 through 12
School: Martha Reid Elementary, Arlington, TX
Planned By: Laurie Anne McAdams
Original Author: Laurie Anne McAdams, Arlington
All scientific investigations during the school year will require students to participate in activities using an inquiry process. Rather than learning scientific concepts through the textbooks, students will utilize an inquiry process, which enables learners to move through the following steps:

1) Students gather information about the topic being studied through a plethora of resources, such as the Internet, science textbooks, trade books, guest speakers, videos, and teacher presentations.

2) Students get into small groups (consisting of 2-4 learners) and engage in a time of inquiry with materials pertinent to the topic at hand. For example, if students are studying erosion, each small group will have sand, dirt, rocks, pieces of wood, a pan, water, and any other items to investigate erosion. ** This is a self-directed learning experience!

3) After approximately 15-20 minutes, the class comes together as a whole and discusses findings. The teacher leads the group into a discussion about questions that arose as small groups worked with materials. The teacher charts all questions students pose in a visible location.

4) The teacher and students go through this list of questions and determine if the questions are investigatable. In other words, can a study in the classroom be conducted to find the answer to this question? **Questions are typically either researchable or investigatable.

5) Students determine which question they want to investigate and form small groups (2-4 learners) based on similar interests. In their new small groups, students write down their investigatable question, create a list of materials needed, and chart procedures they intend to follow.

6) After gathering appropriate materials, students work in their small groups to investigate their question. During this process, students document the steps they followed, events that occurred, and observed phenomenon with point and shoot cameras. Students are also gathering data with notes and may use digital voice recorders.

7) After the investigation has concluded, students begin assembling their data into a presentable format. Possible ideas for this section are:
* Students create a slideshow
* Students create a brochure, incorporating pictures
* Students create a poster showing the sequential steps of their investigation
* Students add information onto the class webpage (such as http://www.mrsmcadams.bravehost.com) about topic being studied and investigation conducted

8) Students save any photographs and computer-created documents on flash drives.
This lesson plan is a format that is applicable to any topic being studied through hands-on learning in the science curriculum.
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Documenting learning experiences and presenting ideas through the use of point and shoot cameras can be adapted into language arts, social studies, mathematics, or any other area of study.
Links: Class Web Page
Materials: Flash/USB Drives, Batteries, Camera Bags, Digital Voice Recorders, Point and Shoot, Word Processor, Web Page, Slideshow
Other Items: 6 SanDisk 1 GB Memory Stick, $39.99 each, total of $239.94
6 Olympus Kits (Camera bag, rechargable battery, neck strap), $49.99 each, total of $299.94
6 Olympus 7.1 MP Digital Camera, $149.99 each, total of $899.94
6 Geek Squad 2 GB USB 2.0 Micro Flash Drive, $38.99 each, total of $233.94
6 Sony Digital Voice Recorder, $59.99 each, total of $359.94