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For K-12 Students • Educators • Homeschool Families • Naturalists

Template for Teaching Inquiry

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Science Inquiry

 Science Content and Conceptual Flow of the Lessons

Use this to plan an inquiry-based science program by providing short-term objectives for students:

1: Inquiring Minds  - Engage:

Students become engaged in the process of scientific inquiry.

Scientists learn about the natural world through scientific inquiry.

• Scientists ask questions that can be answered through investigations.

• Scientists design and carry out investigations.

• Scientists think logically to make relationships between evidence and explanations.

• Scientists communicate procedures and explanations.

2: Working with Questions  - Explore:

Students consider what makes questions scientifically testable. Students gain a common set of experiences upon which to begin building their understanding.

Scientists ask questions that can be answered through investigations.

• Testable questions are not answered by personal opinions or belief in the supernatural.

• Testable questions are answered by collecting evidence and developing explanations based on that evidence.

3: Conducting a Scientific Investigation - Explain/Elaborate: 


Students conduct an investigation in the context of a community health department. They propose possible sources of the health problem and describe how they might confirm or refute these possibilities.

Scientific explanations emphasize evidence.

• Scientists think critically about the types of evidence that should be collected.

Scientists analyze the results of their investigations to produce scientifically acceptable explanations.

4: Pulling It All Together - Evaluate:

Students deepen their understanding of scientific inquiry by performing their own investigation and evaluating one performed by another student.  

Scientific inquiry is a process of discovery.

• It begins with a testable question.

• Scientific investigations involve collecting evidence.

• Explanations are evidence based.

• Scientists communicate their results to their peers.


Some Inquiry Activity Links on Exploring Nature:
Animal Inquiry - Live Studies in the Schoolyard
Bird Inquiry - Your First Investigation
Seed Dispersal - An Investigation
What Grows Here? Inquiry-based Plant Activity
Dichotomous Key – Identify 44 Species of Trees
Simple Circuit Making Activity and Inquiry
Acid Rain Inquiry (Understanding pH)

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Science Inquiry by the National Research Council (off site):

The 5 features of science inquiry, students:

  1. Engage in Scientifically Oriented Questions
  2. Give Priority to Evidence in Responding to Questions
  3. Formulate Explanations from Evidence
  4. Connect Explanations to Scientific Knowledge
  5. Communicate and Justifies Explanations


Inquiry Vocabulary

It should be a goal of the instructor to foster the development of science process skills. The application of these skills allows students to investigate important issues in the world around them. Inquiry-based units will include many or most of the following process skills. These process skills should be incorporated into students? instruction as developmentally appropriate.

Classifying - arranging or distributing objects, events, or information representing objects or events in classes according to some method or system

Communicating - giving oral and written explanations or graphic representations of observations

Comparing and contrasting - identifying similarities and differences between or among objects, events, data, systems, etc.

Creating models - displaying information, using multisensory representations

Gathering and organizing data - collecting information about objects and events which illustrate a specific situation

Generalizing - drawing general conclusions from particulars

Identifying variables - recognizing the characteristics of objects or factors in events that are constant or change under different conditions

Inferring - drawing a conclusion based on prior experiences

Interpreting data - analyzing data that have been obtained and organized by determining apparent patterns or relationships in the data

Making decisions - identifying alternatives and choosing a course of action from among the alternatives after basing the judgment for the selection on justifiable reasons

Manipulating materials - handling or treating materials and equipment safely, skillfully, and effectively

Measuring - making quantitative observations by comparing to a conventional or nonconventional standard

Observing - becoming aware of an object or event by using any of the senses (or extensions of the senses) to identify properties

Predicting - making a forecast of future events or conditions expected to exist

Note: As an example, these processes are applied in the three key ideas in Standard 1, which outline scientific inquiry.
Inquiry may proceed in a cyclical pattern with students moving fro m Key Idea 1 to Key Idea 3 and back to 1 again.

*As presented by the State University of New York at:



Citing Research References

When you research information you must cite the reference. Citing for websites is different from citing from books, magazines and periodicals. The style of citing shown here is from the MLA Style Citations (Modern Language Association).

When citing a WEBSITE the general format is as follows.
Author Last Name, First Name(s). "Title: Subtitle of Part of Web Page, if appropriate." Title: Subtitle: Section of Page if appropriate. Sponsoring/Publishing Agency, If Given. Additional significant descriptive information. Date of Electronic Publication or other Date, such as Last Updated. Day Month Year of access < URL >.

Here is an example of citing this page:

Amsel, Sheri. "Template for Teaching Inquiry" Exploring Nature Educational Resource ©2005-2023. January 29, 2023
< > has more than 2,000 illustrated animals. Read about them, color them, label them, learn to draw them.