Students often have prior beliefs that profoundly affect
their ability to learn new ideas. Many students have misconceptions
about how things work, and they often devise their own explanations
for natural phenomena on the basis of selected observations or
literal interpretations of language (e.g., the sun rises).
In order to build a more scientific understanding of concepts,
students need opportunities to engage in hands-on, minds-on inquiries.
Students categorize questions they generate in
preparation for pursuing answers that expand their existing knowledge.
investigations typically begin with observations of something intriguing
or baffling, which in turn, inspire questions. When you engage your young
scientists in observing the natural world firsthand or via video clips
and photos - or have them review data, engage in fruitful discussions,
read about scientists' observations, create KWL
charts, respond to journal
questions, and so on - curiosity and questions can flourish. With
guidance, these can lead to fruitful thinking, discussions, and investigations.
students have generated a batch of questions about a topic or phenomena,
invite them to review the list and try to categorize them on the basis
of how they might answer them.
Students: You may want to have younger students use just two
categories. For instance:
Students: Consider having students review and mark their questions
according to these means of answering them:
Observation: Put a star (*) next to questions they can answer
through firsthand observations (e.g., What do robins eat?).
Data: Put a D next to questions they can answer by looking
at measurable data (Do male eagles travel faster than female eagles?).
Put a plus (+) next to those they can answer by conducting an experiment
(Will tulips in compost come up earlier than tulips in regular
Information: Put a B next to those can answer by reading
information from books or articles (How many times do a hummingbird's
wings beat per minute?).
Input: Put a J next to those they think Journey North scientists
could best answer (How do whooping cranes decide who leads the
Put an X next to questions that are speculative (Why
don't more people care about protecting habitat for migrating birds?).
These can't be readily answered by any of the above, but students
might suggest alternative means such as conducting surveys, debates,
or a role-play exercise.
Consider grouping students with an interest in similar questions. Challenge
each group to come up with a proposal describing how they would go about
answering questions and present their plans to you or their peers for
review. If time allows, have groups carry out the research. When appropriate,
students should create hypotheses
and use them to guide research.
Questions that lend themselves to setting up structured observations or
experiments will enable students to think and act like scientists. This
Inquiry Strategies feature will help you guide this process: Planning
and Journaling Questions
any of the information we found or uncovered conflict with other information?
If so, explain why you think that happened.
- Do some
questions have more than one answer? Explain when and why that might
method of finding answers to questions do you most trust? Why?
new questions did your research raise?
do you think it's it difficult to answer speculative questions?
Digging Deeper/Assessment Products
students to think about the most memorable zoo or museum exhibits
they've seen. What intrigued them most about the exhibit? Make a class
list of the kinds of things that could be included in a museum or
zoo exhibit on migration. Have student groups develop a school exhibit
or special event for the species the class is following. They should
incorporate the information they found during their research.
Science Education Standards
Ask a question about objects, organisms, events. (K-4)
Plan and conduct a simple investigation. (K-4)
Identify questions that can be answered through scientific investigations.