The school year is just a few weeks old, but we are already hearing of exciting plans and developments from our Water Inquiry teachers. As we prepare for our first teacher roundtable session at the end of the month, the student members of the Water Inquiry team wanted to share our initial reactions to various project launches.
Catherine: What excites me is the possibility of collaborations between grades as well as interdisciplinary connections. Too often, learning is done in a vacuum, and what a student learns in third-grade science does not seem at all applicable to fourth-grade English. That’s why I was particularly intrigued to hear that 2nd and 3rd grade teachers from the Smith College Campus School are working together as a team to design their projects. I am also interested in ways of studying water inquiry that are not directly connected to science. Early ideas ranged from collecting water outside in some sort of artistic installation (from Katy Butler at Jackson Street School) to writing personal stories about water and creating geometric-based drawings to illustrate the story (from Renee Bachman at Leeds School). Since water is all around us, I am excited to see ideas that will make this theme as ubiquitous and present to students as water itself.
Ruth: While reading the observations about water from the 2nd and 3rd grade students at the Smith College Campus School I noticed repeated questions and observations about water moving objects around it. This brought up questions on the power of water. How strong is water? What can it move? How does water move these objects? This inquiry both noticed and then investigated by students opened up many other areas of study into the strength and power of water. I am excited to see if this topic continues to be pursued by students along with new discoveries and exploration into the different roles water can play in our community.
Allyson: As I read over the email responses from August, I was struck by ideas from the teachers at Jackson Street School. Ms. Garcia plans on structuring her kindergartners’ study around the question “Why is water important?” This essential question lays ground for years worth of scientific understanding, supported by Ms. Garcia in the form of observations, books, discussions and exploration. The social implications of this question may also be discussed in the form of another essential question: “Who controls water? Is this fair?” In the first grade, Ms. Butler plans on structuring her inquiry around the questions “Where does water come from?” and “Where does water go?” Plans to go outside make me wonder what questions will be stirred up by the quest to ‘track’ water. (A word of advice: another teacher recommended that students definitely bring a change of shoes!) I can’t wait to see how her wall space for collective learning and idea building develops over time.
Both teachers plan to continue their water inquiry throughout the year. I hope that students in these classrooms will connect water studies with other scientific topics they cover. The fact that these students are a year apart also presents an interesting opportunity for both classrooms. I can certainly image a group of kindergartners and first graders standing at a classroom window in the winter making group observations about the icicles forming outside.