Scientific Inquiry sounds complex, too complex for young students. It makes us think of intricate instruments and computer simulations, pages of data, and long, involved mathematical equations. Scientific Inquiry can involve all of those things, but at its root, scientific inquiry is the way that scientists see the natural world. Scientific inquiry is the collection of qualitative and quantitative data and the use of that data to explain how the natural world works. Scientific Inquiry, far from being foreign to children, is the way children naturally learn — they play and experiment, they see what happens, and from these experiences they build their own rules and expectations about how the world works.
The Inquiry book at Science4Us consists of two units: Science Tools and Think Like a Scientist. Each unit takes a student’s natural desire to play and experiment and begins to show how observations can be noted and analyzed, building skills for using the scientific method.
The Tools module introduces students to the tools scientists use for both qualitative and quantitative observations. Students learn to use tools such as their senses, rulers, and balance scales through hands-on activities. They play online games in which they choose tools, estimate sizes and quantities, and compare measurements. Measurement activities allow students to meet math standards while learning to collect and compare data in the way that scientists do.
The Think Like a Scientist module helps students understand that there are different ways to solve problems. Students learn about and revisit ways to represent observations and information and compare the use and effectiveness of maps, compare/contrast, models, and graphic organizers in presenting and evaluating data. In addition, students build both math and science skills as they work with graphs, tables, charts, and labeled instructions. Language skills come into play as students recognize and describe relationships between things they are studying using analogies, cause and effect, and chronological order.
Inquiry allows students to learn at their own level skills that scientists use every day. Learning these skills at a young age will help students to participate in science experiments, prepare for science fairs, and observe the world around them. As they grow, students will build on the foundation they have built in their K-2 years.