Student question-based inquiry in climate change teaching

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Climate change is a complex topic with several aspects to take into consideration and it requires exploring new approaches and new ways of teaching. As our students will face the effects of climate change, I think we need to start involving them in the learning process in a very deep way. Student-centred learning is a great way to start: it allows students to be involved in the learning process, to develop their skills and competencies and it gives them a voice. In this framework, I decided to experiment with a student-question-based inquiry. In this method, students research answers to their questions and the teachers’ role is to guide the process. This idea came from my participation at the Teachers’ Climate Change Forum (Helsinki University, Lumat Center) and was suggested by J. Herrannen and M. Aksela.

The activity

Goals: to raise awareness about climate change; to increase students’ motivation; to experiment a new way of teaching.

Age of students: 13-14 years old.

Time: 6 hours (both in-person & online).

Materials: photos; PC or tablets; books.

Process:

I started my lesson by showing a photo related to climate change. I didn’t give any explanation to my students, I only put the photo on the interactive whiteboard and I asked them: “What is it? Which questions does it suggest to you?”. We had a long discussion at school and then students continued their work at home. I was impressed by the number of questions that came out from my students!

We collected and resumed all the questions and we choose 5 of the most relevant:

1. How will the world be in 2050?

2.What will be like in 2050?

3. Which discoveries can help us?

4. What can we do?

5. How will we face everything?

Students were divided into 5 groups and each group had to research answers for one of the questions in a collaborative way. Each group prepared a report with the result and choose a member to present the work to the classroom.

Evaluation: We used rubrics for peer and self-evaluation.

Conclusion

Students were very motivated and engaged in this work, and since the questions were not googleable they had to search information, discuss together, imagine possible solutions.

I think this method is very flexible, it allows a multidisciplinary approach and it increases research, critical and social skills. It is a good way to work with inquiry-based learning enhancing students’ motivation.

About the Author

Mariapia Borghesan has been a Maths and Science teacher in a middle school in the North of Italy for more than 30 years. She is a Scientix and eTwinning Ambassador and part of Teachers Climate Change Forum Community. She loves her work and she likes to experiment new ways of teaching.

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