With so many different approaches to teaching science, sometimes curriculum can be mystifying to parents and novice teachers. This is a brief overview of the inquiry science model and how it fits into today's science standards.
Inquiry based science teaching is a way to frame science topics and questions so that students are driven by their own curiosity and discovery to find the answers. The inquiry model can be applied to just about any science lesson or curriculum with a little time and thoughtful preparation by the teacher. Although in many ways the learning in this type of lesson is student driven, teachers who use the inquiry model for their lessons must carefully frame them so that students have the resources, framework and background knowledge they need to be successful.
The “5 E Instructional Model” is a way to guide inquiry instruction. The 5 E’s are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend (or Elaborate) and Evaluate.
During the “engage” portion of a lesson, students are presented with a topic, idea or question that piques their interest and allows them to call upon and make connections with their prior knowledge. “Explore” allows students to directly engage with materials. After students have had a chance to make observations and ask their own questions, the “Explain” phase kicks in. This is where students can share their own explanations and teachers can provide content knowledge that confirms what students have found, or helps to redirect any lingering misconceptions. “Extend” or “Elaborate” is a chance for students to apply their new understanding to a task or further question. The process finishes with “Evaluate”, which is just as it sounds, teachers assess whether or not students have an understanding and mastery of the concept.
For example, an inquiry lesson at the elementary level on flower parts might look something like this: