In a previous post, Connecting to Inquiry, I stated Kath Murdoch’s assertion that “quality inquiry is active…with students being actively involved in ʻdoingʼ the learning with an emphasis on first hand, real world experiences”. In our classroom this term, one of the components to our learning on government has been the opportunity for students to engage in authentic experiences.
In Social Studies I developed the framework for a unit that began with the overarching statement that “government affects our daily lives”. From here the students have explored concepts such as values, relationships, responsibility, and democracy through various learning engagements that were resourced by textbooks, internet searches, YouTube videos and library resources.
Incorporated into the unit were authentic experiences with current government officials that allowed students opportunities to hear the information directly from primary sources, ask questions and make connections to their learning.
Over the course of the unit special guests were invited to present information about their roles in government. We were fortunate to be visited by MLA Joan McIntyre, Faye Halls of the Squamish Nation and MP John Weston. Our learning about local government took place in Council Chambers where Mayor Michael Smith and Councillor Mary-Ann Booth shared their experiences and responded to student questions. Each of these guest speakers provided a wealth of information and dynamic first hand perspectives. It was a pleasure to watch the students throughout the process of learning as they took notes and continually synthesized their knowledge to ask pertinent questions and make blog posts for their Dashboards.
One of my personal highlights was a question posed by a student to MP John Weston. From the outset of the unit she developed a keen interest in First Nations affairs, and demonstrated her inquisitive nature by independently taking action and researching the history of: residential schools, housing, rights and self-government. She listened attentively to Faye Halls’ presentation about the Indian Act, and when John Weston opened the floor to questions during his visit, I was impressed by her initiative and ability to create a question of depth. She asked, “what is your opinion of the Indian Act and would you vote to abolish it?” It seemed as though John Weston was taken aback by this inquiry, however he congratulated her on asking such a great question and proceeded to respond openly.
In my opinion, this is the brilliance of teaching through inquiry. It inspires confidence, curiosity, empowerment, and responsibility. The opportunity for authentic learning has been a meaningful experience for my students, and is a key ingredient to true inquiry teaching.