Inquiring Minds Research Current Science Issues

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James Wilson Young Middle School’s sixth-graders embarked on a guided, inquiry-based environmental discovery project in their classrooms and the school library to answer questions related to pollution, global warming, endangered species and more. Inquiry learning is at the core of 21st-century research processes and asks students to lead their own learning while the teachers provide foundation and guidance. This process defines five main pathways for learning: defining a problem, connecting to a topic, determining quality sources and producing new knowledge to present to others (only four pathways listed here). Furthermore, it challenges students to use higher-level research and critical-thinking skills that reflect qualities sought after in the career world.

Spanning the areas of English, science and technology, the project began with the sixth-graders gaining background knowledge in their science classes to spark questions, leading to answers that help explain an environmental issue or dilemma. In their English classes, the students worked extensively to create writing pieces, while their use of Lexile and Common Core-related informational texts via the library’s online databases led them further along their paths of discovery. The sixth-graders also learned formatting skills in Microsoft Office Publisher to create colorful flyers that marketed the need for change in the environment and society. The students on Rochelle Petre’s and Jennifer Pedersen’s team then presented their findings to their peers, implementing the last stage of the inquiry process. Students had the opportunity to ask questions and comment on others’ projects.  

The Interdisciplinary Environmental Issues Project was developed by Mrs. Petre and Mrs. Pedersen in collaboration with library media specialist Kelly Noeldechen and was integrated into lessons with the sixth-grade English and science departments.