Inquiry in the first grade science classroom
Blomquist, Dana May
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Given the varying degrees of reading literacy in the first grade classroom, the traditional teaching approach of text and lecture does not meet the needs of all students. This capstone project looks at the effect of inquiry-based instruction (hands-on learning) on students' abilities to communicate and collaborate while measuring student engagement. Students of all reading levels were actively engaged in designing and carrying out investigations. Student communication was measured through a variety of mediums. Student collaboration took place in partner, small group and whole group activities. By allowing first grade students to "do" science rather than read about science, they were able to capitalize on their natural curiosity and thereby learn vital science skills while developing a working knowledge base. Inquiry-based instruction provided a positive learning environment for students of all reading levels. Struggling readers benefited from inquiry-based instruction because the students did not have to rely on reading skill and were able to be successful in the science classroom. Conversely, by not being able to read the answer, on grade level readers experienced a learning disequilibrium and had to rely on less used skills during inquiry-based instruction. It was refreshing to see a different set of student successes.