Students working through QFT individually, then work with their peers to ask clarifying questions of others ideas. Photo by Megan Higbee
The beginning of the school year has been exciting and hectic all at the same time. The students arrived with anticipation for a new year, freshly sharpened pencils and 3-subject notebooks in tow. The buzz in my classroom was one of excitement, anticipation, and a little nervousness. Much to my surprise all of the students wanted to know one thing, “How was Panama Mrs. Hendrickson?” That seemingly simple question has echoed throughout the first two weeks of classes.
I shared my journey with GABI RET with my students through my school Instagram account. Posting a picture each day allowed me to pose questions and sharing exciting discoveries with the students each step of the way. Social media was new to my classroom last year and I learned very quickly that it could be a very powerful source of communication with my students. What was astounding was how my use of social media while in Panama had laid the foundation for discussions about fossils, biodiversity, engineering, and STEM careers. I had my students thinking about science and questioning long before the school year started, address one of the NGSS Scientific and Engineering Practices outside of the classroom.
The experiences I had in Panama working alongside Bruce MacFadden and Gary Morgan gave me insight into how scientists approach questions. With each and every experience they have, they ask questions. Sometimes, they ask questions about questions. During a conversation with Bruce one afternoon he shared with me that he often poses questions to his PhD students that have no answer. Based on the quizzical look on my face, he explained, the importance lies in the tenacity and dedication to finding a possible answer. With the possibilities, new questions are asked and refined. With a new understanding of the importance of questioning I set out to find a resource I could use easily in the classroom to guide the students and teach them to ask their own powerful questions. What I found is a wonderful book called Make Just One Change by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana. The book highlights Question Formulation Technique, a process that aims to help students deepen their own understanding of core content and curricular materials by fostering their ability to produce their own questions and improve and prioritize them.
As we dive into our curriculum this year, my trip to Panama will have a resounding presence in my classroom. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn from Bruce and Gary, I had the opportunity to collaborate with some truly remarkable educators. The resulting community of practice has opened the door to new resources, dedicated colleagues, and a renewed dedication to my profession. I expect great things this year, and for years to come.
6th Grade students work to ask and refine questions in order to explain their “cosmic address”. Photo by Megan Higbee