Review: This is largely the story of one fourth grade classroom where children's sense of wonder is both developled and supported. The window of this classroom is where a great deal of observation of birds takes place and this becomes the topic of the student's long term inquiry. The Whitins use examples from the classroom to elaborate on inquiry learning in very helpful and clear ways. The book includes children's work, classroom dialogues and explanation of links to many members of the local community.
Other Information: Inquiry at the Window is available from Heinemann, PO Box 5007, Portsmouth, NH 03802-6926. Call 800-225-5800. Online at http://www.heinemann.com
I notice two styles of guiding whe a group os birding. I think of them as: "point and shoot" and "manual focus." Inevitably, someone on a bird walk will ask " What is that?" The response, "marsh sparrow" is of the point and shoot variety. the more measured manual focus response might sound like, "notice the black wings and back, the white belly, and especially the white band across the end of the tail. Oops and see how it just flew out from that branch to grab a flying insect? it's a fly catcher. The name is eastern kingbird."
My teaching tends toward the manual focus approach. I believe this is the best way to open the natural world to children in urban and suburban schools.
For years, competing arguments for computer use in education have been swirling around schools, with no clear winner. Some argue that computers should be used as writing tools, some as data manipulation tools, and some as research tools. The recent explosion of Internet use in schools has only added to the uncertainty. Just what should we be using the computers for?
As classroom teachers we have heard the call from the National Science Education Standards, the Benchmarks for Science Literacy, and numerous state and local curricula to teach science through inquiry. Yet with our hands already full, how can we get started? If you are ready to teach science in some new, inquiry-based ways, here are relatively easy-to-implement ideas that helped my colleagues, my students, and me.
This profile of effective student practice is the result of teachers and administrators applying the knowledge and methods of the Vermont Elementary Science Project, and then reflecting upon their classroom experiences with each other. This collaborative view of "ideal" student outcomes is particularly relevant to the development of new programs and to the assessment of inquiry-based, elementary science.
Ive been thinking about this question of how teachers can meet the challenge of raising standardized test scores while continuing to engage students with authentic, inquiry-based, hands-on learning. This question reminds me of how I first taught science ten years ago. We werent preoccupied with standards back then. When I was hired, I asked what I should teach and was told, Reading, writing, math . . . you know, first grade.
The educational pendulum, which has become powered by standardized tests, seems to be swinging away from the theory of teaching students the skills they will need in the real world to teaching students the information they will need to pass state and national tests. Educators know that teaching isolated skills is futile unless they are attached to something that has real meaning for the student. Yet standardized tests measure only a command of isolated skills.