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Inquiry Based Learning

Ralston Elementary School is creating a culture of Inquiry-Based Learning to nourish 21st-century learners.

What’s exciting about the inquiry-based learning models is that we go far and above what the curriculum expectations are.

Kids are invested in their learning, and they’re able to transfer and apply what they’re learning in school to the real world. Inquiry based learning allows the students to be thinkers.

Teachers begin their lesson with an idea of where they want to end in mind, but really give the students the opportunity to drive it to that point.

The teachers have guided inquiry. Teachers are guiding students through the curriculum. Then they are making a shift into student-driven inquiry.

Here students use that as prior knowledge and build their own inquiries around that. They are meant to be building the foundation for higher-level inquiry, starting right when they are still in kindergarten.

The teachers develop the guided inquiry model based on the curriculum, but then the students are shaping where do they want to go with it.

Let’s have an example of how things are done in such a case.

Students were told that two scientists had a mix-up in their lab. They had some seeds, they had some eggs, and now they don’t know which are which. The students had the opportunity to decide what they thought would be helpful experiments for us to get to our answer.

Instead of opening with a bunch of information and facts and details, the students are given a problem, and then they’re the ones who get to drive the experiments. They make our steps and then test and see what happens.

Teachers are guiding with questions and to really get students thinking, and learning how to question themselves. One of the students comments that he likes doing it this way because he gets to touch what he is actually doing, instead of just looking at it.

Teacher-guided Inquiry Based Learning

Well, the teachers started with the inquiry model in science. As they started to see students getting excited about finding answers to deeper level questions, teachers saw the power and how that could be implemented throughout the school day.

If you grab a tube of paint, there’s no real connection to the science behind making that paint. Teachers want the students to see that art is everywhere. Science is everywhere, so is math

Student-driven Inquiry Based Learning

Kids need background knowledge and some conceptual understanding of things.

You have to form your questions so that you’re not taking over their creative process, but helping that creative process.

For the inquiry to be successful, the question has to be appropriate. Teachers really had to teach students what questions would work as well as how to model them.

The exciting piece of learning this way is that the teachers don’t always know what the outcome will be. It’s a lot of risks involved in allowing your students to kind of just do some discovery learning on their own.


We want kids to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. Kids are getting to dig deep into the cause-and-effect relationships that occur in every field when we open that up. It just empowers them to love learning. They really don’t have a limit. They get to learn how to do this stuff with their own ideas. It might take a lot of time, but students will do it.

This article is sponsored by Dojoit.com – an Online Whiteboard For Education.

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