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Keeping it Real for All Learners: Integrating Inquiry and Immersion through Project Based Learning Dawn J. Mitchell, Emily Daniel, Kelly Holden, & Stacey Johnson. Oakland Elementary School Palmetto State Gender Institute March 23rd, 2013. What We Want: 21 st Century Learners.

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Oakland Elementary School Palmetto State Gender Institute March 23rd, 2013

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Keeping it Real for All Learners: Integrating Inquiry and Immersion through

Project Based Learning

Dawn J. Mitchell, Emily Daniel,

Kelly Holden, & Stacey Johnson

Oakland Elementary School

Palmetto State Gender Institute

March 23rd, 2013

What We Want:21st Century Learners

What We Do:Traditional Information Transmission Model

How Do We Keep it Real for All Learners?

Research Suggests Inquiry-Based Learning

  • “In schools we often skim across the surface of various topics in ways that bore students and teachers. In contrast, inquiry classrooms are animated and they produce results: Students and teachers address the same required content but go far beyond “coverage” to achieve deeper understanding and to learn purposes and processes that traditional schooling does not promote. In addition, evidence is mounting that students who learn through inquiry typically do better on standardized tests than those who have learned through traditional methods.” –Jeff Wilhelm “Engaging Readers and Writers with Inquiry”

  • *See Figure: Moving from Topical Coverage to Critical Inquiry from Jeff Wilhelm page 13

What is Inquiry-Based Learning?

  • “Inquiry-based learning is a way of acquiring knowledge through the process of inquiry. In inquiry-based learning, students either ask their own questions or are posed a question by the teacher. In the former case the question concerns a topic the students wish to learn about, and in the latter case the question concerns a topic the teacher wishes students to learn about. Regardless of the source of the question, inquiry-based learning requires that students play a major role in answering the question.” Why Inquiry-Based Teaching and Learning? http://www.biology.duke.edu

How Could This Engage All?

  • Turn and Talk: When have you used inquiry-based learning in your classroom? Describe the context? How could this type of inquiry engage all learners?

  • What worked? What didn’t? What did you learn from the experience? What would you like to change?

  • Math – What strategy did you use? Why? Teach it to us

  • Science/ Social Studies – posing essential questions and then having students do their own research

  • Writing – asking students what do they think the author is doing and why

  • Technology – what can I use to show what I know and how does this work?

  • Teacher created overarching essential questions as an umbrella with student generated questions underneath

  • “Nonfiction inquiry demands that learners select a real topic that interests them, develop some questions about it, read for information, search for answers through research, report information, and ultimately gain new insight.”

  • Stephanie Harvey “Nonfiction Matters”

Workshop Goals

  • Introductions

  • Best Practices in Inquiry

  • Examples of Inquiry Through

  • Project Based Learning

  • Examples of Everyday Inquiry

Cyclical Process of Inquiry

  • “Based on John Dewey’s philosophy that education begins with the curiosity of the learner, we use a spiral path of inquiry: asking questions, investigating solutions, creating new knowledge as we gather information, discussing our discoveries and experiences, and reflecting on our new-found knowledge. Each step in this process naturally leads to the next: inspiring new questions, investigations, and opportunities for authentic “teachable” moments.”

  • The Inquiry Page http://inquiry.uiuc.edu/

Best Practices in Inquiry

  • *Relevant – to standards and to students

  • *Real World – in process and in product

  • *Rigorous – allows for application and for ownership

  • *Reading and Writing are Integrated Throughout – reciprocal processes

Integrating Inquiry and Immersion Through Project Based Learning

  • *Project Based Learning

  • Approach Allows For:

  • *Critical Thinking

  • *Creativity

  • *Collaboration

  • *Communication

Examples of Inquiry Through Project Based Learning

  • *Emily’s Example – Kindergarten

  • *Kelly’s Example – 2nd Grade

  • *Stacey’s Example – 4th Grade

Emily’s Example

  • We Work Hard For Our Money Project!

  • Week 1 Providing Goods and Services

  • Whole Group, Small Group, Individual Components

  • Week 2 Wants and Needs

  • Performance Task Rubric

  • Dues and Fees Chart

  • Application

Kelly’s Example

  • Whole Group Support: They didn’t even know it!

  • Polar Animals: Gail Gibbons Polar Bears

  • Hooked with a Paw…..

  • 12 x 18

I Wonder………

Students came up with questions.

Narrowed it down to two.

Researched those questions as a class. Once we found the answers, we went through the entire writing process.

What do you want to know?

North Pole South Pole introduced students to more Polar Animals.

Groups were formed due to interest.

Rubrics were explained.

Each person chose 2 questions.

Research began…………


  • How many kinds are there?

  • How fast can they swim?

  • Are they all black and white?

  • What do they eat?

  • Why do the daddies hold the eggs on their feet?


  • Poster, Power Point, Prezi, and/or iTunes Apps: Educreations, and/or Puppet Pals. (2.99)

If Styrofoam had been invented in 1492 when I was drinking my cup of hot chocolate it would still be around today!

My Styrofoam cup will be around for 500 years!!! How shocking!!!!

Stacey’s Example

I convinced my whole family to stop using Styrofoam!

Project: StyrofoamPBL Smart…because it’s integrated! Real world…because the outcome affects each student! Motivating…because kids feel they have the power to turn a problem into a solution!

Unit Framework for Inquiry and Immersion

Examples of Everyday Inquiry

  • Immersion Centers/Bags

  • ED 101 Inquiry Projects

  • Essential Questions (as activating strategy and as exit slips)

  • Self-Assessments

  • KWLs/RAN charts

RAN Inquiry Chart

Dawn Johnson Mitchell

RAN Inquiry Chart


What I Think I Know







New Learning



What do I already know

What prior knowledge

What prior knowledge

What new information did

What new questions do


or think I know about


was confirmed

from my

was discarded or

I learn from my research

have about my topic based





from my

that was not included in

on the new information


my prior knowledge?


Exit Slip

  • I Am Already Using…

  • I Want to Think About…

  • I Have Questions About…

  • I Want to Try…

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