Inquiry-Based Learning in the Science Classroom

These middle school students are doing what could be very important work for the community while learning about the standards required for their course. The teacher does an awesome job of giving pieces to investigate to different groups and then bringing the students together to synthesize the findings to help them draw their conclusions.

Notice that the teachers says “it may last one class period or a series of class periods.” He’s not talking units here. He’s demonstrating every day work driven by inquiry. Our nature center is perfect for these types of inquiry lessons.

This video is 3 minutes well spent.


The First Day of School: an entry event into your classroom

This originally appeared on my personal blog 6/29/08 as a post titled “First Impressions and Being All Artsy Fartsy.” I am reposting it again below because I think the connections we make with our students are extremely important, and there is no better way to connect than with a strong first impression. This, to me, is a strong first impression. Can you imagine the joy of a parent finding something like this video posted on your classroom blog showing just how much you are willing to give to their children in the coming year? It makes a very powerful statement. Enjoy.


Many folks like to introduce themselves at the beginning of the school year sharing who they are and what their philosophies are for the classroom learning environment. Kids just love this part as well (yeah right).

This is the most painful part of the year for me. At the elementary level when I taught first grade, they were zoned out from me within minutes. They just wanted to hit the centers I had set up. At the secondary level in the middle school classrooms, they sat politely because they knew the drill. First five or ten minutes of each new class was the “Hi, I’m Mr. Floyd, and….” part of the class. Boring. I try. Lord knows that. I just do not have the artsy fartsy bones in me.

Then, I come across folks like Beau Bergeron. This kid (23 years young) has a wonderful sense of conversation. I am more than happy to learn from those younger than me when they are so dadgum (Texas term) creative. I guess I can blame testing for my lack of creativity since it all started when I was in school (thanks H. Ross Perot), but probably not. Anyway, I digress. Take a look at what Beau has created below and enjoy. Most of all, take some time and think through the first impression YOU are going to create when the kids and parents come this year. I realize James Dobson says, “Don’t smile until Christmas.” But what impression do you want the kids to get about what your expectations are? I want to set the bar high and have them live up to them. When they see I put more energy into the classroom than I have to, hopefully they will do the same. It’s worth a try. Realize what you do speaks so much more powerfully than what you say. First impressions.  Then, when you are ready to work on your own, shoot me an email. Let me know what I can do to help you create yours.

Enjoy Beau’s mind and imagination. PS – Realize he played this video on the white shirt he wore to the event.

Are you hung up in rows?

Photo Credit: Ron Cogswell

If you’ve started implementing the inquiry driven instructional practices you picked up during your PBL training, you might have realized the difficulty of doing collaborative work in a room with a bunch of rows of desks. Rethinking your learning space can be one of the most daunting things you do in the classroom because it involves so many different aspects of the physical space that you have known and loved for so many years. Kind of like finally going through on that new haircut and leaving the only one you’ve known since high school.

This is an area I have spent a lot of time reading up on over the last 5 years. Several of my colleagues in education are way better at the whole abstract visualization process than I am, but they don’t mind me borrowing their wisdom to share with you all. Third Teacher from Cannon Design is one of the leaders in learning space design.  The videos below show the entire process from identifying there is a need for change through the final look using only available resources (meaning, not buying lots of new furniture). Spend a few minutes and see if you’re ready for this process. If so, let me know. I’m always happy to help work with you and your students to find just the right layout for your learning space. If you want to borrow their book from me to get some ideas of your own, just let me know that, too. Mitzi and I both have copies we’re willing to share. Check out these additional resources, too.
Remake Your Class Part 1: Planning for a Collaborative Learning Environment

Remake Your Class Part 2: Building a Collaborative Learning Environment

Remake Your Class Part 3: Exploring a Collaborative Learning Environment