Turning the question

My school has been sending me to some inquiry training.
The “i” word has been thrown around since my education classes in college.
It is one of those things that is really good as a concept but kind of hard to pull off in the classroom well.
For lots of reasons.
But the big one number is because teachers are reluctant to let go of the control.
To let the kids loose with a concept and see where they end up.
Let them discover, own it and share out all on their own. Without intervening.
Then push them a little bit further and clear up any misconceptions that they are holding onto before they slip out your door.
This is supposed to be the most meaningful way for a kid to learn.
For them to discover rather than memorize.

One of the other problems with inquiry and science is that kids have stopped learning how to ask questions.
My son bombards me with whys all day long.
Why are owls nocturnal? (which comes out a lot more like “not-turtles”)
Why do I have to take a shower?
Why does that cloud look bear with a tutu on? (I don’t make this stuff up)
Why does gum stick? (like to the bottom of my car floorboard)
Why does Tess have her head in the toilet? (good question, kid and I so wish I knew)
But eventually after years of hearing moms and teachers and everyone else say,
Just because.
And I don’t know.
Those “why” questions stop flowing.

And then in high school you have to pry questions out of them and bribe them with candy and stickers all kinds of silly.
And even then, they mostly don’t ask very good questions.
They still sound a lot like my 5 year old, asking questions that start with why.
And why questions are really hard to answer.

I can tell you how neurons fire. But not why.
I can calculate the speed of light. But not tell you why things get all crazy when you start moving that fast.
I can tell you how far away the moon is. But not why it ended up there.
I can observe altruistic behaviors in animals, but not tell you why they protect each other.
At least not with certainty.

Why is hard to calculate, observe and measure.

So, we learned this little trick today called
“Turning the question”
Taking a why question. And pulling out variables and finding things kids can actually investigate.
For example, if they ask “why does water boil?” That is a tough question to investigate.
But, they could do some quick experiments do see at what temperature it boils, if hot water boils faster than cold water, if different liquids boil at different temperatures, if adding something to the water makes it boil faster, etc.

Pretty much the trick and thing the instructor said that I dutifully jotted down in my comp book ( while thinking more along the lines of a blog post than a lesson plan)

“How can the question be turned into a practical action?”

And I am a girl coming out of a long season of questions and especially whys.
Most of which have nothing to do with science.
But more on the lines of my faith and my heart and my relationships.
And the whys weren’t really getting me anywhere.
Except more questions.
But turning those hard questions into actions.
That might actually teach me something.

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Loomis said...

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