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Science As Inquiry


Scientific inquiry allows us to develop the ability to think, ask questions, plan investigations, gather data, think critically, and communicate scientific arguments. This is the process used by scientists to investigate the universe. The resources in this section allow us to practice inquiry while investigating interesting questions and topics.

Be sure to look at the different set of resources listed at the Student/Learner webpage for this topic.

See Interactive Investigations for additional outstanding examples of ongoing inquiry projects.

Screen shot from siteAmazon Interactive
This online adventure allows learners to explore the geography of the Ecuadorian Amazon, learning about the rainforest and the Quichua people who live there. Activities include learning about the interaction between decision-making, the environment, and economic forces through either directing a community-based ecotourism project or designing a crop rotation plan for small plots of land.

Screen shot from siteBig Trouble in Earthquake Country
This is a Science Education Gateway project from the Lawrence Hall of Science. It offers online earthquake hazard maps and geological information so that learners can assess likely hazards to life and property from earthquakes of various magnitudes.

Screen shot from siteCIESE: Collaborative Projects
These real-time collaborative data projects use the power of the Internet to reach groups around the world. Try "Down the Drain–How Much Water Do You Use", or the "Noon Day Project". These are wonderful interdisciplinary projects. Some may require some word changes to avoid references to middle schools and to parents.

Screen shot from siteCIESE: Online Classroom Data Projects
The Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education has a marvelous collection of classroom data projects. These inter-disciplinary projects all use real world applications based on data from the Internet. The project descriptions include connections to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards and to the National Science Education Standards. Try The Gulf Stream Voyage–an Investigation of Ocean Currents.

Screen shot from siteEduWeb–Educational Web Adventures
This organization has produced many creative web adventures that encourage inquiry. Many of these activities, however, have been produced for the JASON Project, and those have subscription costs. This is the index of the science-related sites.

Screen shot from siteIce on Venus
Is there ice on Venus? This inquiry project from the Science Education Gateway allows learners to investigate answers to this question.

Screen shot from siteNASA Classroom of the Future-Exploring the Environment
The NASA Classroom of the Future project "… engages students in doing real science by presenting them with problems currently being investigated by practicing scientists and by having students manipulate the actual data relevant to those problems." In other words, these are great examples of problem-based learning and constructivist classrooms. (The teacher pages include tips and information for implementing problem-based learning.)

"Exploring the Environment" is a series of seventeen web-based learning modules that explore real environmental dilemmas around the world. Students use NASA online imaging data to investigate these problems. Each module starts with a situation, such as the imminent eruption of a volcano near a major population center. Using Internet links and other information, the students explore options and make decisions. Other modules include tracking a live hurricane, investigating the shrinking habitat of the mountain gorillas, and examining issues about temperate rainforests. There is a teacher’s section for which one may request a free password in order to gain access.

Screen shot from siteNOVA Online
This website is the online information resource for NOVA, the PBS television science program. For each of the televised programs (which one need not have seen in order to take advantage of the resources), one will find teachers’ guides, hands-on activities, "Hot Science" sections, suggestions for investigations, and additional information. Good examples of these activities, which call for simple materials, include "Slip Sliding Away" from Avalanche, and "Overflowing the Banks" from Flood. Some Nova websites are described in other parts of the Teacher/tutor resources.

Screen shot from siteSearch for Ice and Snow
Learners are asked to be part of an Earth task force for drought prevention. Learners construct ways to find frozen reservoirs of water on Earth by using NASA Space Shuttle images. This activity provides practice in using geographical concepts and tools, as well as data acquired from Internet resources.

Screen shot from siteSultan’s Lost Treasure--Who, What, Where?
"You have been hired to help curators at the Museum of Anthropology…" Thus begins an investigation involving the identification and classification of artifacts. This website is a companion to an NOVA program that followed an archaeologist investigating a shipwreck in the South China Sea. There are complete lesson plans, data collection sheets, and materials for four boxes, each containing drawings of artifacts. Learners are asked to do research and make inferences about these "objects". This activity is of short duration, so it is especially appropriate for adult literacy programs.

ThinkQuest Library
ThinkQuest provides a collection of educational websites that have been designed by participants in the ThinkQuest Contests. ThinkQuest encourages learners of all ages to create online project-based inquiry activities with links to additional Internet resources. This ThinkQuest Library of Entries provides a searchable database; search by keyword or by the index here.

To submit ideas and resources for this section, please contact Susan Cowles.