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Inquiry on Board!
This article explains how teachers in grades K-8 can use inquiry boards to help students understand the anatomy of a science investigation and the relationship between variables. The author, an organizer of teacher training at the University of Washington, describes the design and use of inquiry boards that sequentially lead students through an eight-step experimental process, beginning with “Brainstorm Variables” and ending with “Answer the Question.” To make the scientific process clear, the article highlights a research question used successfully with elementary school classes—“What variables affect seed germination?”—and describes how to help students choose one variable (such as the effect of fertilizers on seeds) to investigate, ask a question, and predict an outcome. The “Set Up Experiment” inquiry board helps students visualize the experiment (which uses inexpensive “baggie gardens” containing seeds that will germinate in sealable plastic bags) and understand the need for a control or comparison. Other inquiry boards teach students to record observations and represent their important findings. To complete the experiment, students use their data table and graph to answer their original experimental question. The author says that the inquiry board method is especially helpful in showing students that every single variation represents a possible manipulated variable, and that by manipulating only one variable at a time, the experimenter can measure the impact of that variable on the outcome. This article was first published in the October 2006 issue of Science and Children. A Baggy Garden workbook for students is available as a related link for this resource.
Program Director: Barbara T. Wakimoto, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1989, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Summary: The University of Washington is a public research university in Seattle, Washington. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- The UW-HHMI Integrative Research Internship Program, which enables students to participate in faculty-mentored research to gain appreciation for the breadth of research approaches in biology;
- The Biology Fellows Program, which provides selected freshmen with a supportive academic and social environment to help them succeed with a demanding science curriculum;
- The UW-HHMI Future Faculty Fellows Program, which includes an annual teaching and career workshop and a teaching apprenticeship program for postdoctoral researchers; and
- The UW-HHMI Summer Institute in Life Sciences, which provides elementary and middle school teachers with training in inquiry-based science teaching, by developing and testing new evolutionary biology and human biology modules.