Answering the Questions: What did I do in my presentation? What did I intend? How did it go?
What fun! It was exciting to look around the room and see five tables, 10 people each, mauling materials, making noise, laughing, and asking questions. That I was seeing were people experiencing inquiry.
My table was working on an activity called "Waste Water". The intent is to allow students the opportunity to experience waste water treatment while problem solving ways to do it more efficiently (engineering). This can then lead to more inquiry or "content" discussions of waste water treatment, chemistry, ecology, water conservation, environmental stewardship, etc.
Each team received a tub of "pretend waste water" containing used coffee grounds, toilet paper, pieces of cloth, and twigs. Each team of two was told to "get the water as clean as they can" using the tools provided - two bowls, two strainers of different mesh, and cups. Groups received little guidance but lots of encouragement and questions from me. Some asked for more equipment, e.g. filter paper, and one group used the table cloth! After 20 minutes, they were asked to produce the cleanest water they had in a clear plastic cup. Discussion followed.
Participants accepted the challenge with vigor and creativity. There was general surprise at the simplicity of the challenge, yet the complexity of ideas, alternatives, and questions it raised. Participants were "very interested" in learning how urban waste water is treated and gained a true appreciation for the complexity and magnitude of the process. The discussion on inquiry focused on how "the experience" produces questions, motivation, and interest in a content area while opening countless connections to other topics. Everyone wanted to try the challenge again, but we were out of time.
Life Science Inquiry Activities
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