I normally spend my time with older students since I teach high school, and I used to teach sixth grade. However, sometimes I spend some time with my nephew. He recently turned three. He loves to ask questions. His favorite?
And he really wants to know because he’s trying to figure out the world around him.
Tthat’s what scientists do all the time. We make observations, wonder, and ask questions. Questions are at the heart of science. It can be the first step to a great discovery. Questions guide us to new understandings.
When we were starting our science fair projects this year, one of my students wanted to know how NASA makes images from the data they collect. The main question? Why does NASA false color images? Along the path to discovery, she started working with a partner and began to understand the process. By the end? Not only did these students know why and how NASA false colors images, they had written a computer program of their own to take the raw data and create their own images. (Want to check it out? It’s a pretty cool project: Stella Vitrum.) And it all started with a question.
Asking good questions is so important!
So if children are natural questioners, and asking questions is integral in science, why is it so hard for our students to ask good questions? Is it their prior educational experiences? Is it because they never received “good” answers to their previous questions? Lots of questions. I am not sure of the answers. However, maybe I can help with the solutions.
One of things I try to do with my students is help them to learn how to ask good questions. How do I do this? I model questioning. I respond to their questions with deeper questions. I let them know when they have good questions. I show them how asking deep questions can lead to uncovering an idea. It’s okay to start with a “simple” question like “Why?” and develop it further. I give students experiences that make them ask questions – like when we kicked off our thermochemistry unit with a calorimeter lab before break. We didn’t talk about the how and the why and the equations first. However, through the lab experience, student began to ask the questions they will need to fully understand what is going on. Questions are at the heart of inquiry based learning, which makes sense; to inquire is to ask questions.
how do you foster questioning in your classroom?