Academic journal article Teaching Science

Try This: Child-Led Inquiry

Academic journal article Teaching Science

Try This: Child-Led Inquiry

Article excerpt

This article describes an inquiry science lesson that was sparked by a child's question. In this school a science specialist (author 1) team teaches science with the kindergarten class teacher (author 2) for 1 hour per week. The class teacher integrates science at other times during the week. To foster the kindergarteners' interest about a science topic, the class teacher (Cassandra) encouraged the children to bring 'something that moves' for News time. Isabella brought 2 balls: a 'super-bouncy' ball and a 'normal' (tennis) ball. Isabella wanted to show her classmates that one of the balls bounced much higher than the other one. Isabella was disappointed that neither ball bounced as high as they did at home. This puzzled the class and they wondered why this happened. Cassandra suggested they could ask the science specialist teacher (Chris) if she could explain this observation. Together, the children and teacher devised and sent an email to Chris.

Figure 1: Email from kindergarten class (KO).

Sent: Monday, May 23, 2016 12:12 PM
To: Christine Preston
Subject: Message From KO
Dear Dr Preston,
Today Isabella brought 2 balls to school. One of her balls was a bouncy
ball. The bouncy ball bounced on the floor.
We then tried another ball. This ball didn't bouncei We were surprised.
Can you please tell us why the ball didn't bounce?
Thank you,

Responding to the children's question

To encourage the children to investigate this question on their own (before the next science lesson)m Chris replied to the email. Instead of answering the children's question directly, Chris asked the children if they could 'test' the balls on different surfaces in the classroom. She suggested they try: the carpet (where News time occurs) and the hard floor near the door. The children were surprised to find that the balls bounced differently on the two surfaces. On the harder surface, the 'super-bouncy' ball bounced much higher than the other ball (like it did at Isabella's home). The children decided that Isabella's kitchen (where she had bounced the balls at home) must have a hard floor like the classroom. Isabella agreed and said she did not play with the balls in her bedroom because they did not bounce well on the soft carpet floor.

Capitalising on the children's interest

Spurred on by the children's interest in finding out more about what affects how balls bounce, the teachers devised a lesson to allow further exploration of this scientific phenomenon. The engaging and productive learning experience that resulted is outlined next. This demonstrates how the excitement and interest garnered by teachers in response to one child's question can be the stimulus for productive investigation.

Introducing the investigation

We started the lesson by talking about the email that Chris received from the class. The children recalled the question they were interested in answering: 'Why did one of the balls bounce higher than the other?' The following dialogue was used to elicit the children's ideas.

Teacher: Isabella was it the carpet that you were bouncing them on?

Isabella: Mhhm

Teacher: Yeah. So, why do we think one bounced well on the carpet and the other one didn't? Any ideas why?

Nicole: Because if one ball is really soft that means it can bounce really high and if they're hard they can't bounce really high very much.

Teacher: Excellent. So, if the ball is hard or soft that might make a difference to how it bounces.

Amelia: The difference it bounces, it might bounce slower on here, the carpet, it's not that smooth and it will bounce more on that one, this has more things to hold it on.

Teacher: OK, so it also depends what surface it bounces on, doesn't it?

Next, the teachers showed the children a special ball called an 'off road' ball that is supposed to bounce on just about anything. The children were asked to predict: 'Do you think this ball will bounce well on the carpet? …

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