Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Inquiry in the 7/8 Classroom

In September, I posed the question, "Who do you think is the greatest Canadian, and why?"  Students explored notable Canadians and presented the information in a variety of ways.  It was our first foray into "Inquiry" or "Project-based" Learning.  What a learning experience it was!

Our first step was to look at Digital Citizenship.  Students investigated the concept of digital footprints, and how to stay safe online.  We also discussed fair use/fair dealing and how to credit someone when we use parts of their work.  Then the real inquiry began...

"Is Beyonce Canadian?", "The only Canadian I can think of is Terry Fox" and "I can't find anyone to do my project on!" were some of the refrains heard during the first few weeks of school.  But fortunately, we have technology.  And technology opens up a whole new world of resources.  For example, we decided to tweet out our question to some Canadian figures.

Wab Kinew, Canadian author and activist, responded to the question, "Who do you think is the greatest Canadian?" with the answer "Murray Sinclair".  This led to a discussion about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its impact on Canada.  We also tweeted the leaders of the Federal Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Parties, to see if they could enlighten us.  We're still awaiting a response. :)

But in spite of all of the positive learning we experienced, we also discovered that inquiry-based learning is hard work!  It requires organization, internal motivation and a desire to keep going even when it gets boring challenging.  We've also learned that sometimes when a project is too open-ended, it can be confusing.  Most importantly, we've discovered that effective inquiry-based projects have a driving question.  Behind this driving question are a series of simpler, "thin" questions that help us to answer the "thick" driving question.

This challenge, incorporating inquiry, indigenous perspectives, and technology into the classroom is going to be a journey worth taking!

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