Gr. 6 Science Inquiry

Hello again! Here is the second post of Brian Shin’s and Michael Alford’s gr.6 science inquiry. If you have not read the first post for an introduction, click here.

We continue now at the Explore phase.

In the book, Guided Inquiry Design, it is noted that the intention of this phase is to expose the students to a wide variety of sources where the focus is to skim over many topics and write down what is interesting to them. It is important to emphasize to them that this is not a search for as much information on one topic as they can gather. This last word is the confusion. The Explore phase is not the Gather phase where a topic has already been chosen.

We introduced the graphic organizers that would be needed for this phase: First, an Inquiry Log which keeps track of source names, and ranks how important or interesting the information in them is to the student. The second is a Stop and Jot form which allows the students to briefly write really interesting ideas from a particular source (going a bit deeper!)Both these graphic organizers are found in Guided Inquiry Design.

The sources that we made available to the students were: a trolley of library books, prepared for us by the librarian, a podcast website called ‘Starspot’, the website, and Youtube videos.

Luckily, we have many up to date books including multiple copies!


By the end of a couple of classes, we asked the boys to do a mini-assignment. They were to review the following:
1. Inquiry Journal video notes, and any other important journal entries.
2. Their “I wonder” questions from your shared Inquiry Circle Google slideshows.
3. Their notes from the “Gallery Walk” – “I see, I think I know, and I wonder”.

After review they must answer the following two questions and submit via our online school platform ‘Canvas’:
* What do you want to know more about?
* Which sources do you want to spend a little more time with? Explain.

Impressions: boys who had great ideas on topics and were previously engaged really flourished; but the boys who struggle with developing ideas and questions on their own had more challenges. We found sharing questions as a class after one session helpful to those boys. The Inquiry log and Stop and Jot forms are very helpful tools to organize immediate thoughts and research notes on paper. It is a nice mix of digital use with pencil and paper.


Exciting! Now for the development of their Inquiry question in the Identify Phase.

We introduced this Inquiry Chart from the book, Guided Inquiry Design; it has been changed a little visually, but the content remains the same.

Step by step development of an Inquiry question


Using a highlighter to focus on the most important ideas after reviewing all work to this point is helpful. Making more questions from these ideas is essential. Providing more graphic organizers to list these highlighted ideas scaffolds many students who struggle with visually organizing work.

Used as many of these as needed


From their collection of ideas and questions, the boys had to sort them into common themes which we called ‘clusters’.

Similar questions or ideas put into a cluster


Then from the cluster they would develop an Inquiry question. The boys could develop two or three clusters and Inquiry questions, but had to choose only one to investigate.

Here are some of their examples:

“Why can time slow down when you near a black hole?”

“How can we use the gravitational pull of a black hole to our advantage when travelling through space?”

“What is the process that creates energy for stars and how might humans use it as an energy source?”

“How might we create new space technology that is more advanced and doesn’t need fuel?”

“How can the nano craft of the project ‘Breakthrough Starshot’ withstand a force of 10,000 g’s?”

“Why can’t we see dark matter?”

Impressions: Similar to the Explore phase outcomes, boys who have a natural ability to connect ideas and formulate new ones were fast to go “deep”. Other boys needed more teacher feedback and guidance but overall they still were able to find a personal connection at a deeper level. Wonderful job!

Tomorrow: Gather, Create, and Share!

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