New Ideas, New Members, New Stories!

As we gathered in late September to commence our first meeting of the 2017-18 Water Inquiry Story Project, much excitement was felt among old and new members alike. New members were eager to join a story-creating research group, and veteran members were enthusiastic to start anew, having had such success with last year’s Inquiry, Inc. pilot story. With the new school year came our new working space, the Capen Annex Design Thinking Lab.

One of our main tasks was to decide our next course of action: write a new story, create a new format, do more research, widen our perimeters, etc. After a couple of weeks spent thinking, reflecting, and discussing, some of our amazing team members discovered and brainstormed a fabulous new vision: Inquiry, Inc. will appear in a story that your very own students can finish!

Inspired by the YA Unfinished Storybook Project, our next Inquiry, Inc. story will be formatted in an innovative and exciting way. Participating classrooms will receive an unfinished story featuring the familiar characters of Inquiry, Inc., along with a decorated “secret mission” story box in which to submit their original endings. In a letter to students,  Inquiry, Inc. will ask for help with their newest problem. They NEED their friends’ — your students’ — expertise and fresh ideas. We will introduce the drama of a compelling local water problem; model the first steps of inquiry; then hand the problem-solving off to students, asking them to finish our story in a way that helps Inquiry Inc. “save the day”, as shouted in their jingle.

This new format rings true with the purpose of our Water Inquiry Project: learning through inquiry and interacting with the local environment. We would love to provide you with more information, but that would defeat the purpose of this Top Secret Mission, wouldn’t it? We can give you a little clue as to what we were talking about in our meeting pictured above, though; we were busy deciding what problem Inquiry, Inc. would solve next… and the hint is that we saw a lot of it while walking in a nearby park:


OK, enough secrets given away for one day! Stay tuned for updates and releases.

Thank you for keeping up with our project, we really appreciate your support and can’t wait to have Inquiry Inc. arrive in your classrooms! If you’re interested in participating in this project or would like to find out more, please e-mail Carol Berner or post a comment or question.

In the meantime, it is my pleasure to introduce the members of the 2017-18 Water Inquiry team:

Brittany Collins joined the Water Inquiry Project in 2016. She is interested in narrative learning, story-form thinking, and the integration of story in STEM curricula. Brittany attended the Smith College Campus School and has enjoyed returning as a classroom aide, dance teacher, and (now) a marketing and writing intern, as well as water researcher. A native of the Pioneer Valley, Brittany grew up exploring the outdoors– hiking, fishing, swimming, ice skating. She brings to Water Inquiry a desire to foster in students a love of the “inner” world of books and the “outer” world of their communities and environments, worlds that she views as reciprocal and connected.

Pinn Janvatanavit is a senior at Smith College from Bangkok, Thailand. She is majoring in education and minoring in studio art. Pinn loves to bake, sing and dance in her free time. This is her first year joining the Water Inquiry Project and she is mostly looking forward to helping out with the illustration and story planning processes.

Meghan Johnson is a junior Environmental Science & Policy and Education & Child Study double major at Smith College. In environmental science, Meghan focuses on marine ecology and is fascinated by issues such as clean water and rising seas. In addition to studying all about the oceans, Meghan enjoys spending time backpacking, swimming, scouting, and appreciating nature. Since the spring of 2017, Meghan has enjoyed working on the Water Inquiry project to educate children about the inquiry process and environmental issues happening all around them. Meghan is excited to see the Water Inquiry project grow!

Ruth Neils is an Education and Environmental Science double major and a current Junior at Smith College. Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ruth grew up surrounded by the Great Lakes, spending much of her childhood exploring the water and nature around her. Ruth enjoys being outdoors hiking, swimming, and traveling, all of which she has had the privilege of doing during her time abroad in New Zealand for the fall semester of 2017. The Water Inquiry Project perfectly combines Ruth’s interests in the environment and education fostering scientific investigation and discovery through engagement with the natural world. Ruth has enjoyed being part of the evolution and growth of the Water Inquiry Project over the past two years and is excited to continue working on the project to see the new directions it will take in the future.


Hannah Searles is a senior education and psychology double major who has been working on the water project in one form or the other since her first year. She is interested in elementary education and learning about creative ways to incorporate story and science in the classroom. In her spare time, she spends extra time in the water on the diving team at Smith. 


An Easthampton, MA native, Lily Sun studies Psychology at Trinity College. With her interests in Psychology, she has had research experience in the field. She enjoys working with kids and is excited to join the Smith community as a Water inquiry researcher. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, playing her violin, knitting, and reading.

Anna Wysocki is a sophomore who is currently undeclared, but plans on declaring a major in Government and is still pursuing numerous fields she wishes to minor in, from Public Policy to Environmental Science and Policy. Growing up in upstate New York, in a town called Hoosick Falls, Anna has an interesting experience with water that drove her initial interests in this project. Her town’s water supply was discovered to have been poisoned by a pollutant called PFOA just a couple years ago, which is known to be linked with serious health consequences. She joined the Water Inquiry Project in 2016 hoping to reveal water in its many forms and promote water safety and knowledge through the story-writing process. She loved her last year working on the project and is excited to introduce the project in a new light this year. Anna is also a member of the lacrosse team at Smith, a Head of New Students in her house, and is a Gold Key tour guide.

And last but not least, our fearless faculty leader Carol Berner!

Written by Anna Wysocki on behalf of the Water Inquiry team.

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