- Students are going into grades 6, 7 and 8.
- Students and Certified literacy teachers must be at at 15:1 ratio, or better.
- Teacher aids and other adults can help, but they will not take the place of the certified teachers.
- Classes meet in computer labs so that every student has full access to his or her own internet connected computer.
- Olympicpedia camp goes for five weeks: July 12 to August 13, 2010.
- Olympicpedia's class is just part of the campers day. The Olympicpedia portion is after lunch, from 1 pm to 3 pm.
Inquiry Based Learning
The Olympicpedia Camp Approach to Educating and Inspiring Kids is with Inquiry-based Learning. This technique goes back to education philosopher, John Dewey. It is a less structured, curriculum-centered framework of today's schools.
Asking questions is at the heart of inquiry-based learning. The goal is not to ask just any questions, of course, but ones that kids honestly care about. Olympicpedia Camp kids care about sports, athletes, travel and being stronger as they grow. Our role is to guide the kids in finding the answers themselves and encourage them to ask new questions along the way.
Inquiry-based learning is a style particularly well-suited for out-of-school programs. Sessions and teachers with Olympicpedia Camp have a freer hand to complement, enhance, and expand on the work children are doing in their literacy classes. School-based teachers may not want to go so far as to make inquiry-based learning the core of their classroom approach. It does, however, offer a powerful option for summer camp projects and computer lab activities in the afternoons.
"Inquiry-based learning" is one of many terms used to describe educational approaches that are driven more by a learner's questions than by a teacher's lessons. It is inspired by what is sometimes called a constructivist approach to education, which posits that there are many ways of constructing meaning from the building blocks of knowledge and that imparting the skills of "how to learn" is more important than any particular information being presented. Not all inquiry-based learning is constructivist, nor are all constructivist approaches inquiry-based, but the two have similarities and grow from similar philosophies.
In the traditional framework, teachers come to class with highly structured curricula and activity plans, sometimes referred to as "scope and sequence." They act as the source of knowledge and as the person who determines which information is important. There is certainly creativity and flexibility in how each teacher runs his or her class, but the topics and projects are driven and evaluated based on what a teacher, administrator, school board, or bureaucracy have decided what children should know and master.
- Olympicpedia Camp puts less emphasis on the teacher being the source of knowledge, thankfully. No teacher can understand all the nations of the world and all the sports that all the athletes play and its associated jargon in hundreds of different langugages.
An inquiry-based approach is more web-like in how students pursue knowledge, as opposed to the linear, vertical and compartmentalized structure of traditional education. As the web-like Internet increasingly permeates society and education, the traditional structures adapt to the forms of the new media. Olympicpedia Camp is a less traditional structure and more web-like.
In the inquiry-based learning projects, key choices are driven by students. Content creation is fully owned by the students. Instructors act more as coaches, guides, and facilitators who help learners arrive at their "true" questions -— the things they really care about. When students choose the questions, they are motivated to learn and they develop a sense of ownership about the project and in turn about the specific wiki pages and eventually forge a bond to the muscles and strains in the games themselves.
Inquiry-based learning projects are with structure. The Olympics are not a free-for-all playground. Sports have rules. Olympicpedia Camp is differently structured. As such, Olympicpedia Camp may require even more planning, preparation, and responsiveness from the directors, educators and volunteer community. It's just that the lesd teacher's role is different within the camp day.
Olympicpedia Camp Instructors adopt an inquiry-based learning approach and help students identify and refine their "real" questions into learning projects of literacy and wiki page opportunities. The teachers then guide the subsequent discovery, research, inquiry, discussion, outreach, reporting, presenting and evaluation processes.
Since one role of summer camp programs is to enhance, support, and expand on the literacy enrichment, it's a particularly good approach for giving kids an opportunity to learn with more freedom while reinforcing and imparting basic skills.
An inquiry-based learning approach is flexible and works well for projects that range from the extensive to the bounded, from the research-oriented to the creative, from the laboratory to the Internet. It is essential, however, that Olympicpedia Literacy Camp leaders plan ahead so as to better guide kids to suitable learning opportunities.
Many kids who have trouble in school because they do not respond well to lectures and memorization will blossom in an inquiry-based learning setting such as Olympicpedia Camp, awakening their confidence, interest, and self-esteem.
The traditional approach tends to be vertical: the class studies science for awhile, for example, then language arts, then math, then geography. In contrast, the inquiry-based approach is at its best when working on interdisciplinary projects that reinforce multiple skills or knowledge areas in different facets of the same project. The traditional approach is sharply weighted toward the cognitive domain of growth. Meanwhile, the inquiry-based learning projects of Olympicpedia Camp positively reinforce skills in all three domains: physical, emotional, and cognitive.
Inquiry-based learning is particularly well-suited to collaborative learning environments and team projects. Some Olympicpedia Camp activities get the entire class working on a single question as a group. Teachers insure the whole group truly cares about the question. Other activites get students in teams working on the same or different questions. Inquiry-based learning also works well when when leaders let each student develop an individual project. When indivual work occurs, it always incorporates some elements of collaboration or sharing to the later stages.
An inquiry-based approach works with the middle school age group. Older students are able to pursue much more sophisticated questioning and research projects. A spirit of inquiry into activities comes even with the youngest, in an age-appropriate manner.
The inquiry-based approach acknowledges that children, especially children from minority and disadvantaged communities, have what researcher Luis Moll calls "funds of knowledge" that are often ignored by traditional curricula. An inquiry-based approach validates the experience and knowledge that all kids bring to the learning process.
Inquiry-based learning is premised on helping children ask questions. Instructors must learn the art of asking good questions. Our teachers are leaders and guides and model the spirit of inquiry as none can know all the athletes of all the nations and the games they play with jargon and language translations.
Question can either shut down or open up a conversation by the words choosen and the prejudices revealed.
Consider the different responses to the question:
- "Nobody here has ever created a Web page, have they?" versus
- "Has anyone made a Web page before?" versus
- "What do we know about creating Web pages?"
The second question is at least a more positive version then the first, but it still will only gets yes or no answers. The third invites constructive input and validates prior knowledge. Listen to how people ask questions.
Practice your questioning and listening skills with exercises like this one: In your next staff meeting, have everyone pair off and ask each other the story of their name. How would you ask that question? The way you do it will play a role in determining the answer you get. After a few minutes, bring the group back together and share what you learned. Now try this activity with kids using all sorts of questions to help hone their questioning and listening skills.
What kinds of questions make for good inquiry-based projects? As we said, they must first be questions that the kids truly care about because they come up with them themselves. In addition, good questions share the following characteristics:
The questions must be answerable. "What is the poem 'Dream Deferred' based on?" is answerable. "Why did Langston Hughes write it?" may be answerable if such information exists, or if the students have some relevant and defensible opinions. "Why did he choose this particular word in line six?" is not answerable because the only person likely to know such a specific answer is Hughes himself, now deceased.
The answer cannot be a simple fact. "In what year was Lincoln killed?" doesn't make for a very compelling project because you can just look it up in any number of books or websites. "What factors caused the assassination attempt?" might be a good project because it will require research, interpretation, and analysis.
The answer can't already be known. "What is hip-hop music?" is a bit too straightforward and the kids are not likely to learn much more than they know already. "What musical styles does hip-hop draw from and how?" offers more opportunity for exploration.
The questions must have some objective basis for an answer. "Why is the sky blue?" can be answered through research. "Why did God make the sky blue?" cannot because it is a faith-based question. Both are meaningful, valid, real questions, but the latter isn't appropriate for an inquiry-based project. "What have people said about why God made the sky blue?" might be appropriate. Likewise, "Why did the dinosaurs become extinct?" is ultimately unanswerable in that form because no humans were around to know for sure, but "What do scientists believe was the reason for their extinction?" or "What does the evidence suggest about the cause?" will work. Questions based on value judgments don't work for similar reasons. You can't objectively answer "Is Hamlet a better play than Macbeth?"
The questions can not be too personal. "Why do I love the poetry of W. B. Yeats?" might inspire some level of internal exploration, but in most cases that's not your most important goal. Get the kids to focus on external research instead.
When working with younger, shy, or alienated kids and with those unused to this sort of approach, you may have to ask leading questions or even spoon feed them questions to get started. Don't get discouraged. Once they catch on, you'll see their enthusiasm and curiosity grow.
Using the Inquiry-Based Approach Inquiry can be used the Olympicpedia Literacy Camp because it is fundamentally based on just one basic principle: involve kids in the process of making learning decisions.
Because it's such a flexible approach, there's really no way to cover all the ways you can use it. Take a look at How to Create an Inquiry-Based Project for step-by-step guidance on creating projects, but don't think that everything has to be so elaborate. In the lesson called Using Maps for Pattern Writing, for example, you'll find inquiry used in the most elementary way to keep kids excited and engaged in a vocabulary-building exercise. How? Simply by determining a few patterns beforehand, then involving them in the process of making learning decisions.
Research tells us that inquiry based and project based instruction improves learning.
- Students pick a distant land, exotic or otherwise. Students construct an online travel brochure.
- Students prepare a travel brochure, using multimedia, of places to see within a given country.
- Students prepare a documentary on how geography has dramatically impacted the evolution of a culture in a particular country.
- Students create, produce and edit a game show of trivia that is related to the culture under study.
Click on these links to find out more information. http://www.queensu.ca/ctl/goodpractice/inquiry/strategies.html
Includes how to set up an inquiry based project http://www.emints.org/ethemes/resources/S00000902.shtml
Links to inquiry based websites http://ozpk.tripod.com/0inquiry
Project based learning http://newali.apple.com/ali_sites/ali/exhibits/1000328/Project-Based_Learning.html
Project based learning Edutopia http://www.edutopia.org/projectbasedlearning
Project based learning Internet sites http://www.internet4classrooms.com/project.htm
Teachers pose questions such as these as they interact with students engaged in inquiry processes.
- What does this make you think of?
- In what ways are these different?
- In what ways are these the same?
- What materials are use?
- What would happen if you ...
- What might you try instead?
- Tell me about your ...?
- What does it look like?
- What does it remind you of?
- What does it feel like?
- What can you do next time?
- What can you tell me about it?
- Tell me what happened.
- What could be done instead?
- Which one do you have more of?
- Is one object longer/shorter than another?
- What do you call the things you are using?
- What can you tell me about the things you have?
- Tell me what it looks like.
- How are you going to do that?
- What do you feel, see, hear, taste, smell?
- How did you (or he/she or they) do that?
- Could you, me, or we do the same?
- What will you do next after you finish that?
- Is there anything else you could do/use?
- How do you know?
- What are some different things you (or they) could try?
- What is it made of?
- Show me what you could do with it?