Updated: Oct 21, 2021
This year, teachers have found innovative and creative ways to adapt Inquiry Journeys units to virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning -especially when it comes to informed action! Teachers found that being virtual can actually be used to engage students in new and different ways, creating powerful and memorable learning experiences. On the webinar, our teacher-panelists shared the importance of student-led learning, finding ways to involve their communities, and connecting learning to students' lived experiences.
This blog post and the associated webinar are sponsored by inquirED and the National Council for the Social Studies.
It might seem obvious, but it's important to note that informed action is the synthesis of two separate things:
Informed action is more than being informed and being able to pass a test. And it is more than doing a project without first building up content knowledge through rigorous investigation.
But what does informed action actually look like?
We were joined by three teachers to share student work from their Inquiry Journeys units. They also shared their reflections on teaching inquiry-based social studies and provided tips for teachers thinking of incorporating informed action into their units.
All three teachers agreed that allowing students to drive their own learning might felt risky to them, especially in terms of informed action. Over time, however, they found that when they set clear expectations and gave steady guidance and facilitation, students thrived.
Kelli Mammenga from Wisconsin shared her experience implementing inquiry-based social studies for the first time, "We all know teachers like control, and it's hard to give up some of that control. It's a little nerve wracking. But I think my biggest takeaway is that I can give my students more independence and freedom in their own learning and let them explore their curiosities... and let that be the driving factor of their learning." Her students created dioramas while moving between virtual, hybrid, and in-person learning, and then presented the dioramas to their community.
With the challenge of shifting between virtual, in-person, and hybrid learning, teachers relied more heavily on their communities to implement units.
In Ohio, Alicia Bowman shared that although they had done a living museum for the past two years for the 13 colonies unit , the virtual museum ended up involving the wider community more than ever before. She shared, "The virtual museum really inspired community involvement. I don't think it would have happened to the same extent if we were creating the artifacts in a face to face setting, because I would have been in so control of it was in the classroom."
Connecting to Students Lived Experiences
Finally, teachers found that the content allowed students to connect historical events to current events and their own lived experiences. Bob Katovich from Michigan shared that his students found parallels to their own lives with the essential question: "Why leave your homeland for the unknown?" At the end of the unit, Bob continued to find ways to connect students interests by having them create memes using political cartoons.
Sarah Milo Hoskow, Director of Partner Experience at inquirED shared, "One of the things that we know about social studies and history is that it can feel very disconnected from our students' reality. As teachers, we can open it up and allow students the opportunity to draw connections to their own lived experiences and that is what engages students. It makes the learning meaningful, and it propels them through not just the learning of the social studies content, but it gives that learning purpose and drives them toward taking action."
Share your students work
We were so inspired by the teachers, and hope webinar attendees were too! Seeing the amazing things that happen in inquiry-based classrooms is the best way to get students, teachers, and the community excited about shifting to a more student-centered approach. To all teachers out there doing amazing things, please continue to share your student work, it is needed if we want all students to have the opportunity to experience inquiry-based social studies.
View the recording of the webinar below.
inquirED has moved beyond the textbook, offering a customizable, digital curriculum that supports teachers in shifting to student-centered instruction. inquirED delivers year-long, student-centered curriculum and assessment with engaging content and activities for students and embedded professional learning for teachers. Inquiry Journeys is inquirED’s core elementary social studies curriculum. Inquiry Journeys is a comprehensive inquiry-based curriculum with embedded PD that helps teachers shift their practice to a more inquiry-based approach. Learn More.