Inquiry-Based Learning is like Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

How do Clouds Make Rain?: An Inquiry-Based Learning Experience

By: Savannah Garrett and Angela Williams

On Thursday, October 31st, a classmate and I will be presenting an inquiry-based learning experience to a group of first graders. The question we chose to engage the students is, “How do clouds make rain?” This question will be answered through a series of activities in which we will be presenting to the students. Throughout this blog, we will explain how to incorporate inquiry-based learning into your classroom, the importance of inquiry-based learning, and an outline for the activities that we will be presenting with our inquiry-based learning experience. 

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How to Incorporate Inquiry-Based Learning into Your Classroom

If you’re interested in incorporating inquiry-based learning into your classroom, it is important to first choose a question that interests your students. If your students are interested in what they are learning, they are more likely to remember the information. Once you ask a question that interests your students, you can begin creating lessons based around that question. As you plan your lessons, keep in mind that you are guiding the children on their own individual learning paths, not providing them information. Lastly, be sure to include time for your students to reflect upon their inquiry-based learning experiences, whether it’s through a drawing, free write, or simply quiet time to think. Below is an article that goes more in depth about how to implement inquiry-based learning.

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This article is titled Inquiry Based Learning: A Teaching and Parenting Opportunity. The article is about how many of the ways that a teacher implements inquiry-based learning is much like parenting. There are many similarities between the two, such as keeping a growth mindset, learning from mistakes, and deconstructing tasks. Therefore, inquiry-based learning might be easier for you to connect with than you thought, especially for those parents who have already been through this or are currently going through the phases of parenting. This article provides insight into applying inquiry-based learning in the classroom, which makes this article a must read for teachers and parents. 

Why we Implement Inquiry-Based Learning?

It is often hard for some teachers to open their minds to new and different approaches to teach content. But, it is important to choose strategies that promote student learning and critical thinking. That’s why choosing to implement Inquiry-Based Learning is beneficial. Not only does it reinforce curriculum content, but it also can be used as a warm-up for the brain and to get students excited to learn. This approach allows students to take initiative for their own learning and can be beneficial for everyone. Additionally, according to this article, Inquiry-Based Learning sparks curiosity, allowing them to evaluate the environment around them. This promotes them to use basic skills of the investigation process.

Choosing to implement Inquiry-Based instruction over traditional approaches will allow your students to see learning in a new and fun way, where they are the facilitators. With this instruction being student-directed, it teaches children the many skills that are involved with asking a question and finding the answer. These skills may include; planning, problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration, which they will use throughout their lives as a learner.

Our Inquiry-Based Learning Experience

On Thursday, we are asking the question, “How do clouds make rain?”. We plan to engage our students by conducting an experiment using shaving cream, a cup of water, and blue food coloring. On top of the cup of water, we will put a layer of shaving cream covering the surface, which will represent a cloud. To demonstrate rain falling, we will put a few drops of food coloring in the shaving cream, which will eventually fall down to the water. We will have a small discussion on how rain forms and the different types of clouds. We will discuss how some clouds are seen before or after a rainfall and some are seen during. Below is a picture of our poster board and the outcome of the experiment.

To watch the activity in action, watch below:

https://youtu.be/1tAmm1NuGjc

Inquiry-Based Learning is like Sunshine on a Cloudy Day 

Inquiry-based learning causes our student to create their own pathway to learning. Therefore, it’s important for teachers to learn what interests their students and incorporate those interests into their curriculum. Both you and your students will benefit from it. Therefore, I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and create your own inquiry-based learning lesson or unit. Be your students’ sunshine on a cloudy day!

Update: October 31st, 2019

Observations from the Trial of the Inquiry-Based Learning Experience

After a very exciting time presenting an inquiry-based learning experience to 54 1st graders, it’s now time to reflect, as every great teacher does. Throughout the learning experience, the students appeared to be engaged by watching me and participating in answering questions, shaking the shaving cream to “create the cloud”, and adding blue food coloring to the “cloud”. The students also seemed eager to learn. As they came to each station, they would excitedly read the title of what they were to be learning. However, as the day went on, the students appeared to be losing focus and becoming more tired. For example, students began to look around more and increasingly ask off-topic questions. This was to be expected though, because the event lasted a little over an hour. As all teachers know, even with a brain break, that’s a long time to keep young students fully engaged.

Reflection: Glows and Glows

Each lesson comes with its own set of glows and grows. One glow that came from my lesson was the fact that I chose a topic that interested the students. I also included an interactive activity that each child was able to participate in and understood. For example, each child was able to tell me what happened to the cloud that caused it to rain. Another glow that came from my lesson was the movement that I incorporated throughout different activities. For example, each student had the opportunity to shake the shaving cream to “make the cloud”, add blue food coloring to the cloud, and perform their own rain dance before we made the cloud rain. Although I had many glows throughout my lesson, I also experienced some grows. One grow that came from my lesson was the fact that I didn’t have enough activities and information to present to last the full ten minutes. Therefore, I found myself having to think of more questions and activities to ask and do with the children. Another grow that came from my lesson was the difficulty of making sure each child could see everything that was occurring throughout the presentation. For example, some children could see the poster board, but not the activity or vice versa. This caused me to stop my lesson a few times to have children move to a spot in which they could see the activity or information being presented.

Modifications

A proud moment and highlight of the presentation was my ability to modify my presentation to best fit the group of kids that were in front of me. After the first time I presented my inquiry-based learning experience, I realized that I didn’t plan enough activities to last the full ten minutes. With the help of our wonderful assistant teacher, we were able to think of additional activities to complete with the children to ensure that we made the most of our ten minutes. For example, after the first time we completed the presentation, we incorporated a rain dance into our lesson. Before the kids added blue food coloring to the “cloud”, we had them all get up and create their own rain dance. In addition, after presenting the poster board, we began asking the children to look out the window and determine the type of clouds that were outside and what kind of weather we would be having based on the clouds. Lastly, we added the singing of the Itsy Bitsy Spider with movements with the students to show how rain impacts not only people, but animals. Afterwards, we asked the students about what they enjoy doing in the rain. Presenting the inquiry-based learning experience showed me that as a teacher, you need to be able to modify lessons as you go. As all teachers know, you never know what’s going to happen, so you need to be able to think on your feet.

Suggestions

  • While completing the cloud activity, make sure you have plenty of paper towels handy
  • While completing the cloud activity, leave some gaps in your shaving cream cloud or it will take 40+ drops of food coloring to get rain to fall from your cloud
  • Have extra activities in mind to complete with the students in case the activities don’t take as long as planned
  • Get the students up and moving or they will lose focus rather quickly
  • Choose a topic that interests students
  • Provide as many opportunities as possible for the students to participate in the lesson

 

HUGE shout out to my assistant teacher, pictured in the back center of the picture! My partner was unable to make it to our presentation, so Lauren stepped up and helped me. She made my inquiry-based learning experience transition very smoothly. I couldn’t have had such a successful experience without her. Thank you, Lauren! 👏