Inquire: Let it Roll

Over the last few days, I’ve learned a lot from my students. I always say I learn a lot from my students, but now I think I’m listening more.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard over just the last few days:

Playing with gravity


Yesterday, we went on a field trip to a science museum. I walked around and observed what was happening. A lot of play was happening. They were testing, probing, prodding, jumping, throwing…all the things that should happen at a good hands-on science museum.

One group was even investigating and testing out theories. I loved that. Tried to capture it on film.

Afterward, the students told me they kept investigating further, and then they thought they were super-charged with electricity and were curious how long they could hold it. I should have kept the video tape rolling. Play=discovery.

Today, I thought we would continue with our quest into the discoveries they found at the museum. Our current unit of study is all about scientific discoveries and how our ideas of them have changed and shaped our present, our future. Since the students were still buzzing, I decided to let them dig deeper into their favorite exhibit at the museum. They would figure out the discovery linked to their exhibit. Find out the who, what, when, where, why, how of it all…Then see where that discovery has led us today.


And there’s another thing I learned. It’s great that I don’t have all the answers. Their quest was to figure out what scientific discovery informed the exhibit at the museum. A few were easy. A room that tilted where balls seemed to roll uphill was all about gravity.

There was another one where balls were floating through a stream of air, and you could change their movement by adjusting the air stream. I’ve played with the exhibit a lot of times myself and never figured out what it was explaining. I helped the student with some keywords to “Google” it, and it turns out to be Bernouilli’s Principle. And that led to jet engines and…the inquiry continued.

And there’s was the plasma tube that we then connected with plasma TVs and fluorescent light bulbs.

We suddenly were working into break time, and no one noticed–not even me. I was too busy hearing what they had to say about plasma and jumping on the moon and lightning and…

I had other plans about what to do after break–we had math and writing workshop to complete. After a quick reflection, I took a vote from students if they wanted to continue their inquiry, and “Yes!” in a loud shout was the answer. So, a quick break and back to it. Learning to be flexible and go with the students’ energy.

I can’t wait to see where the students take this. They’ve ruined my best-laid plans. I’ve had to give up a lot of control. I’m not sure I can see where we’re heading.

But, it’s good for me. It’s good for the students.

“We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.” Lloyd Alexander


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