Inquiry Based Science

What does it look like?

"Inquiry Based Science: What Does It Look Like?" Connect Magazine (published by Synergy Learning), March-April 1995, p. 13.

To help in answering this question, teachers and administrators participating in the Vermont Elementary Science Project observed and discussed the actions of students engaged in hands-on, minds-on science exploration. Then they created this, "On the Run Reference Guide to the Nature of Elementary Science for the student " (1991, with revisions 1992)

They wrote, "The intent is not to use this guide as a checklist, but as a statement of what we value in the areas of science processes, science dispositions, and science concept development We urge you to capture evidence of your own students engaging in these indicators "

When students are doing inquiry based science, an observer will see that:

Children View Themselves as Scientists in the Process of Learning.
1. They look forward to doing science.
2. They demonstrate a desire to 1earn more.
3. They seek to collaborate and work cooperatively with their peers.
4. They are confident in doing science; they demonstrate a willingness to modify ideas, take risks, and display healthy skepticism.

Children Accept an "Invitation to Learn" and Readily Engage in The Exploration Process.
1. Children exhibit curiosity and ponder observations.
2. They move around selecting and using the materials they need.
3. They take the opportunity and the time to "try out" their own ideas.

Children Plan and Carry Out Investigations.
1. Children design a way to try out their ideas, not expecting to be told what to do.
2. They plan ways to verify, extend or discard ideas.
3. They carry out investigations by: handling materials, observing, measuring, and recording data.

Children Communicate Using a Variety of Methods.
1. Children express ideas in a variety of ways: journals, reporting out, drawing, graphing,charting, etc.
2. They listen, speak and write about science with parents, teachers and peers.
3. They use the language of the processes of sci-ence.
4. They communicate their level of understand-ing of concepts that they have developed to date.

Children Propose Explanations and Solutions and Build a Store of Concepts.
1. Children offer explanations from a "store" of previous knowledge. (Alternative Frameworks, Gut Dynamics).
2. They use investigations to satisfy their own questions.
3. They sort out information and decide what is important.
4. They are willing to revise explanations as they gain new knowledge.

Children Raise Questions
1. Children ask questions (verbally or through actions).
2. They use questions to lead them to investigations that generate further questions or ideas.
3. Children value and enjoy asking questions as an important part of science.

Children Use Observation.
1. Children observe, as opposed to just looking.
2. They see details, they detect sequences and events; they notice change, similarities and differences, etc.
3. They make connections to previously held ideas.

Children Critique Their Science Practices.
1. They use indicators to assess their own work
2. They report their strengths and weaknesses.
3. They reflect with their peers.


THE VERMONT ELEMENTARY SCIENCE PROJECT is located at Trinity College, McAuley Hall, Burlington, VT05401 (802) 65&-3664. VESP is a grant awarded to The NETWORK, Inc, Andover, MA by the National Science Foundation.

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