Happy Valley Elementary SD#62 Sooke

School Name: Happy Valley Elementary

School District: SD#62 Sooke

Inquiry Team Members:Krista Leakey: kleakey@sd62.bc.ca
Laura Parker: ldeweerd@sd62.bc.ca
Michelle O’Regan: moregan@sd62.bc.ca
Tanis Chan: tchan@sd62.bc.ca
Jessica Prette: jprette@sd62.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: kleakey@sd62.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)

Curricular Area(s): Applied Design, skills & Technology, Science, Social Studies

Focus Addressed: Experiential learning, Inquiry-based learning, STEM / STEAM

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? We want to use inquiry-based learning for curricular areas (i.e., social studies, science, ADST) so that students can explore topics that they find interesting.

Scanning: We primarily relied on class observations during our scanning phase. We discovered that although many of our students work well independently or in pairs, they need more support when working collaboratively in groups. We work with a diverse group of students where some are very capable readers and writers, while others are not & require significant support. Some students don’t appear comfortable taking risks. One teacher completed a diagnostic reading assessment and learned that her class experienced difficulty reading for information.

Focus: We all agreed that we wanted learning to be student-centred where students were free to explore topics of interest. Some teachers are focusing on the ADST curriculum where students can pursue ‘hands-on’ projects for authentic purposes and audiences. Other teachers want to use the inquiry model in social studies and science as a way to cover the big ideas in the curriculum. We also hope to complete a ‘Genius Hour’ inquiry where students are free to investigate any topic of choice.

Hunch: The idea of choosing topics of choice is a new concept for many of our students. That is, they haven’t been exposed to many opportunities to explore their own interests. Instead, many students expect to be told what to learn by their teachers. Historically, teachers have taught the prescribed curriculum (or PLOs) to students without allowing students time to pursue their own interests in relation to that curriculum. We also discussed the limited exposure to technology at our school. Students will need to learn how to use technology as an effective tool for learning.

New Professional Learning: We will use the following books to help us plan and excute more inquiry-based learning for our students: Kath Murdoch’s The Power of Inquiry; John F. Barell’s Why are School Buses Always Yellow; & Harvey Smokey Daniels’ The Curious Classroom. We will also explicitly teach the skills that we feel are necessary for successful student inquiry; namely, collaboration skills, inquiry skills, design thinking framework, & nonfiction reading skills. In addition, we will collaborate about any other inquiry-based ideas that we encounter during our own inquiry!

Taking Action: Our focus area sentence morphed into the following specific question with our students: How can learning about bees change our world? We had to teach some specific skill content; specifically, how to read non-fiction text/websites; developing questions; pre-vocabulary exposure; how to collect field data & record observations in various forms (i.e., graphs, forms, timelines). Ultimately, we decided upon a way we could support the health of pollinators by planting a pollinating garden. This was an addition to our pre-existing vegetable garden.
This was an extemely successful learning experience for our students. They were very motivated and engaged. We were impressed with the quality of questions, observations, connections and discourse that the students demonstrated throughout this process.

Checking: We witnessed a difference in our students’ level of engagement as they extended their learning beyond the classroom. For instance, they would return to class with information about activities they did at home related to our bee inquiry. We didn’t experience behavioural issues & were able to incorporate different cognitive abilities with the inquiry. We witnessed moral reasoning & elevated thinking about the connectedness of our garden environment as well as to the Earth in general. We were really pleased with how easy this inquiry covered multiple curricular disciplines without feeling forced, coerced or teacher-directed.

Reflections/Advice: A flexible timeline is key to the success of trying to implement this kind of inquiry. Moving forward, we would include a piece where students are able to further share out their learning to a broader audience. We also plan on investigating setting up a Mason Bee House.

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