Friday, March 19, 2010

What If...

I have been visiting Lower School classrooms recently. One of my greatest joys is spending time in classrooms, observing students as they learn and explore new ideas.

Today, in the Sharks (1st grade) classroom, students participated in an inquiry science project about plant growth. Students had learned previously that plants need air, water and soil to grow, but wanted to explore what would happen if they made changes to these elements. Stop by the Sharks room over the next week or so to see what happens as seeds they planted today try to grow in sea water, in 7-Up or Coke, in sand or rocks, or in the dark. Students had a million questions related to plant growth!  Once each student decided on his or her question for investigation and wrote up their hypotheses, the planting began. The discussion in the classroom as they talked about controlling variables and about stating questions so that answers can be measured was far beyond what one would typically think first graders were capable of. That’s the gift of Seabury. The opportunity to explore the “what ifs” and take ideas as far as they can go.

I have been fortunate to frequently witness this process in every Seabury classroom, because inquiry is at the core of what we do. Recently, I observed the Explorers (4th/5th grade) experimenting with prisms and then with bubbles. I could hardly keep up with the rapid fire questions that each new observation generated. Earlier this week, the Navigators (3rd grade) tried to figure out how to use a battery and wire to light up a light bulb, and then went on to new questions about circuits and electricity. The Superstars (PreK/K) tried to figure out how the smell of vanilla escapes from a balloon when the liquid doesn’t. And the middle school students explored the best way to program their LEGO® vehicle’s computer to get it through the FIRST LEGO league obstacle course.

The inquiry process not only gives students the opportunity to BE scientists (as opposed to passively learning ABOUT science), it develops their thinking and problem solving skills, and allows them to explore ideas in greater depth than in a more traditional / fact directed lesson. The process of inquiry is at the heart of Seabury’s program, and is infused in all subject areas.

Later this spring we will be expanding our ability to offer inquiry science as we purchase additional materials with monies raised through our auction’s Fund an Item project. We can only imagine the new “What Ifs” these materials will allow our students to explore. We appreciate the generosity of all who contributed to the project, and look forward to sharing our new discoveries with you!

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