Missing Ducklings at Maple Elementary

First grade teacher Margaret Betts reads Inquiry, Inc. and the Case of the Missing Ducklings to her students.

“Yeah! Missing ducklings!” two first graders exclaimed, high-fiving one another while sitting criss-cross-applesauce on Margaret Betts’ classroom rug.

It was Friday the 13th, but the Water Inquiry Story Group was surrounded by enthusiasm at the launch of Inquiry, Inc. and the Case of the Missing Ducklings at Maple Elementary School. Hazy sunlight hinted of spring as first graders clad in colorful sneakers embarked on a tour of their local storm drains. Students had already worked together to brainstorm about the positioning of “water cleaning facilities” in the storm-to-faucet journey of water– a conversation that left them excited and ready to explore as they walked single-file out of their classroom door.

Crouching down to peer in each storm-drain, student investigators made observations about contents (“Water! Lots of water!”; “A pipe!”; “A Band-Aid”).  Throwing pebbles into the drains’ depths, students imagined the ways in which pipes might connect and travel throughout the underground system.

Bringing their noticings and ideas back to the classroom, students then settled into our Inquiry, Inc. story, connecting their adventure to its plotline as they practiced the problem-solving steps that our protagonists model. After identifying the problem in the narrative (the baby ducklings are trapped in the storm-drain), the drains and pipes on the children’s playground served as fodder for creative thinking. When students were asked, “What would you do if you were Anna [the protagonist of the story]?,” they brainstormed a resourceful set of solutions based on what they had seen:

Student:    “Ask my Mom to sew me a rope and tie it to something and go down and get the ducklings.”
Margaret:  “How would you get in?”
Student:    “Open the grate”
Margaret:  “What if it’s too deep?”
Student:    “I would put scuba gear on and tie the rope to something and go down.”
Student:    “I would just grab a rope and go in and grab the ducklings and find the mom.”
Student:    “If I had a phone I would call the police and they could take the grate off.”
Student:    “I would call the fire department — they have a ladder.”

Adopted into the Easthampton first grade curriculum, Inquiry, Inc. and the Case of the Missing Ducklings is an interactive story and learning adventure that will encourage a town-full of students to investigate the water systems that support and surround them. “It’s a whole pipe system!” one student exclaimed at the close of Margaret’s launch– a statement that is predictive of lessons to come. “Can we make our own storm drains?” another student asked, reflecting upon the day’s notes. “Like with a box? And poke holes in the top?”

These design-thinkers have yet to discover that our unit will ask them to do just that, applying their experiences, questions, and ideas to a science and engineering challenge that seeks to preclude duckling peril.

We are thrilled by students’ curiosity and can’t wait to see what they create!

Students were asked to draw their answers to the question, “Where does water go?” This illustrator captured the story’s conflict with his caption, “Uh Oh!”

Written by Brittany Collins on behalf of the Water Inquiry team.

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