Friday, August 23, 2013

What do plastic bags have to do with science inquiry?

The first week of school, I like to think outside of the textbook. That isn't always easy when you have diverse ages and grades...sometimes it isn't easy if they are just alike. Well, science can be a challenge, so I went to a book I have about science and plastic bags. I gave everyone what they needed, a large book, a straw and a baggie. As I was about to describe the experiment procedure to them, something overcame my mind and a whole new thought came out. Instead of saying, "Try to raise this book using the materials you have?", I said, "Use what you have and create an experiment." Those were my total directions.

What fun it was to watch them put their heads together and come up with their own ideas! They create experiments that demonstrated air pressure that would lift a book (the original idea), force air out of the bag, open the book and, some even added another piece of equipment and made their books look like lungs as they inhaled and exhaled.

There are a few great things about open-ended science inquiry projects. First, the students discover the joy of investigation. Because I was not telling what to do, they were free to use their own inquiries and their own imaginations. Second, ability was not important. Experiments that are simple, yet open-ended, allow students who do not excel in science to enjoy the subject and gain confidence in the subject. Finally, the only thing I, the teacher, had to do was rotate around the room and answer any questions they had. Because they were so involved, there was no need for discipline.

You can see by the smile that, while science was happening, fun was also a part of the experiments.

As you can see from the picture, once they had done all they could with what they had, they added to the experiments by using a ruler. 

When they were done, they each explained their own experiments and what they had learned. Watching them take ownership of their learning was fun!