YDC Workshop
Morino Institute

Perry Center
19 January 2000
Cornelia Brunner
Overview of the Session
Inquiry Learning

Educational experts agree that children learn best when they have a chance to investigate things that really interest them personally. The problem in most schools is that there is a curriculum to cover, which prevents teachers from allowing these private explorations, even when they have learned techniques to manage a classroom full of individual investigators. In after-school programs, however, there is a better chance to let kids "learn how to learn", which is what Inquiry Learning is all about.

In this workshop, we will discuss the four major components of the Inquiry Learning approach:
  1. Questions: asking good, researchable questions about important things
  2. Resources: finding and using good resources to answer good questions
  3. Interpretation: making sense information to answer real questions
  4. Report: sharing ones question and answer with others so they can understand what's important about it

We will use a set of paper templates (or worksheets) to go through this process together. These templates are a way to scaffold and guide the learning process. They are "Inspiration" files and can be customized to fit any purpose or age group.

The purpose of this workshop is to model how this process works with any learner so that you can imagine using it with your own kids as soon as possible.

Part 1: Questions We will start the session by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the Inquiry Learning approach. Then we will form interest groups and use the Questions templates to arrive at good, researchable questions for each group that represent the kinds of topics you think your kids might be interested in pursuing. We will share the questions and something about how the process felt and what issues might arise in a reflective discussion at the end of this first section.

Part 2: Resources The second part of the workshop will focus on how to think critically (in an age-appropriate manner) about resources. The interest groups will use their questions as a basis for planning a research project as a way to model that kind of planning with kids. We will share resource pans and discuss the process at the end of this part with an emphasis on how to help kids evaluate information resources.

Part 3: Interpretation After the break, the third part will be something of a change of pace. Since it would take more time than we have to actually find resources to answer each groups' questions, we will focus on the issue of interpretation in a different way. We will engage in a few "visual literacy" exercises, designed for adults in this case, but which can easily be customized for kids, which deal with the issue of interpretation and how the context in which one sees a picture affects what it means. We will also discuss how the templates for this part of the Inquiry process guide the interpretation process.

Part 4: Report The final part of the workshop will focus on making multimedia presentations (in KidPix) to present one's research. Rather than designing a full presentation (since we won't actually have conducted any research), we will discuss the process of helping kids think critically about how different media (text, pictures, maps, movies, sounds, etc.) can be used to share what they have learned. The technical skills needed for this will be treated on in future workshops. In this session, we will focus more on how to help kids organize their thinking with the use of the templates for this part of the Inquiry process.

Part 5: Planning an inquiry program We will end with a discussion of the benefits and challenges of this approach from your perspective, and how you can plan to implement it with your kids.

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