Developing the essential questions was quite a process. Once students were able to pinpoint their passions, I wanted them to connected it with society. Our class overarching essential question is “What ignites your passion and how can your passion have a positive impact on society?”. My goal is for students to take their passion to a deeper level, connect it with society, and develop empathy.
To begin, I used a handout created by my colleague, Susie Whipple. She gathered information from Trevor MacKenzie’s book “Dive into Inquiry.” (Handout here.)
Trevor says, “Essential questions are not answered in a quick, simple Google search. They are not answered in a single lesson or in a discussion with a friend. They do not have a single answer and, in fact, our understanding of the essential question may change over time.”
This quote led to a discussion on the need for an open-ended questions that require multiple sources to answer. I shared my experience as a graduate student. When we draft our master’s thesis, many of us have to revise our focus once we start looking for information. For others, the question may be too direct and easy to answer. At this point, layers of depth and complexity must be added. As adults, we understand that this is part of the process. Our young learners are just starting out with inquiry. All these steps need to be discussed.
Students wrote a possible essential question on a note-card. They held onto it for a couple of days to ponder. We came back to the questions during one-on-one conferencing. I met with each student individually and we confirmed or modified their question. After discussion, most questions remained very similar to the original question. Some students needed probing to take the questions deeper. Most students were able to make a connection to society.
For example, two student like dogs. Their connection to society is K-9 dogs. Several students are interested in sports. Their connection to society is health benefits of sports. Another student is interested in Greek mythology. Her connection to society are the influences of mythology on modern products. Another student is interested in science experiments. His connection to society is how inventions that are harmful can be made safe. Take a look at our questions here.
- What is the cycle of a K-9 dog including training, service, and retirement?
- How are K9 dogs trained to detect drugs, weapons, or people?
- What are the health benefits of playing soccer and how can players maximize their potential?
- If Greek mythology and culture didn’t exist, what items would we not have today?
- What are the details of harmful inventions and what can we do to be safer around them?
One students’ question is, “How can the bond between animals and humans be beneficial?” This student has been raising pigs in 4H for several years. It is a passion that the whole family shares. She’s interested in the relationship between animals and their owners. Through her personal experience raising animals, and research that she is finding, she is able to tie academic research into her passion. At our county fair, she earned Grand Champion for her market swine. She brought in her ribbon as her artifact along with an iMovie she created during her fair experience.
Another students’ essential question is “How are people harming beaches including the physical beach and animals along the shoreline? What actions can be taken to restore our beaches?” This student created a sorting box. She included items that are natural to beaches and items that are harmful to beaches. She plans on having students sort items when she presents her research at our student-led edcamp.
Still another question is “How did holidays originate and how do people celebrate them today?” This student has been bringing in a variety of artifacts relating to holidays. We had to extend our board to include a desk for her artifacts. Her enthusiasm for holidays is contagious. Along with her research, she plans to create a Google form for fellow students to complete about their favorite and least favorite holidays.
Next on our PKP journey is to continue to gather evidence, answer essential questions in a multi-paragraph essay, create a digital piece, and conduct a 20 minute session at our student-led edcamp. My next post will focus on gathering evidence, our curiosity journals, and our diji journals we’re using for reflection.
Ooooh, if you haven’t ordered your copy of #InquiryMindset, be sure to check it ordered. It’s lovely!!! Trevor and Rebecca created the perfect companion book to #DiveIntoInquiry.