Tag Archives: STEAM

Making Inquiry-Based Learning Authentic through Human-Centered Design

Authentic Learning is Key

Over the past semester, I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning fit together.  This past week, I’ve started to think more about how PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning can be implemented in STEAM.  Earlier today, I had a Eureka moment when I came to the realization that the commonality between STEAM, transformative Technology Integration, PBL and Inquiry-Based Learning is authentic learning.  When developing my curriculum STEAM I focused on cross-curricular 9 week long projects that tied together students’ learning from all their subjects.  Sometimes, I felt my projects offered authentic learning experiences.

For example, one project that I feel was one of my stronger projects was “Taking Learning to New Heights with Power Up 3.0”.  My third graders were reading about the Wright Brothers in reading, so in STEAM I wanted to teach them about the scientific principles behind flight.   This project was made possible by a grant from the Beaver County Educational Trust.  With the money they provided me, I was able to purchase a class set of Power Up 3.0s.  These devices connect to an iPad (or smartphone) through Bluetooth.  The device has a rudder and a propeller on it that you attach to a paper airplane.  The app on the iPad provides students with a flight simulator experience and allows them to control the rudder and propeller.  Additionally, I had a pilot come in to speak to the third grades.  I also had several high school students who were studying at the CCBC Aviation Academy come in to help my students fly their paper airplanes.  The BCET honored me with the Exemplary Mini-Grant award for this project and subsequently named me Beaver County Teacher of the Year.  The BCET also nominated me for Pennsylvania Teacher of the Year 2019, and I am honored to have been named a Semi-Finalist.  As I reflect on my past teaching practices, however, I realize not all of my projects had strong, real-world connections.

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Human Centered Design in STEAM Stems Inquiry, PBL and Technology Integration that Transforms Learning

 “Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration… What Would Dewey Think?

I just got done reading a fabulous article from the blog 21centuryedutech titled “Essential Connections of STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration… What Would Dewey Think?”  that really opened my eyes and helped me connect some dots in my mind. In this article, the author, Michael Gorman, illustrates how STEM, PBL, and Technology Integration are interconnected.  While reading this article I decided to create a mind map using Popplet.
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My Ever-Changing Mental Model of Inquiry-Based Learning

Over the past two weeks, my mental model of inquiry-based learning has developed.  One new insight I have gained is that there different types of inquiry.  Inquiry can be teacher directed, teacher-student shared or student directed.  I also learned that these types of inquiry-based learning exist on a spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum is structured, teacher-directed inquiry and on the other end of the spectrum is student-centered, open inquiry.  In the middle of the spectrum is guided inquiry that is teacher-student shared.  We also learned that inquiry can be multidisciplinary (Topic C, 2018). Continue reading

Shining a Spotlight on Three Exemplars of Project Based Learning

This summer I began taking courses online through Wilkes University to add a STEM endorsement to my Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate.  This past week I began one of the required courses, Project Based Learning.  In my STEAM classroom, I have designed 9 weeks long projects, however, I look forward to learning how to fully implement Project Based Learning properly in my classroom.  During the first week of this course, we viewed videos showcasing three different examples of project-based learning.  You can view the videos below.


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New Insights Turn Preconceptions into Misconceptions

For the past two school years, I have been blessed to develop a curriculum and teach an elementary STEAM program for students in grades K-6.  Out of my love for STEAM Education, I decided to pursue an endorsement in STEM for my Pennsylvania Teaching Certificate.  I will be able to take the needed courses online through Wilkes University! This past week I began one of the required courses, Inquiry-Based Learning.  After reading and watching videos of inquiry-based learning in action, I have come to the realization that my understanding of Inquiry-Based education was rather narrow and shallow.  I am looking forward to deepening my understanding during this semester.

This week we read a summary of the main points from the book How students learn: History in the classroom published by Donovan and Bransford.  The first point in this summary was that “(s)tudents come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom” (Topic A). I feel that this quote summarizes my feelings as I reflect on my own preconceptions of Inquiry-Based learning and gain new insights.

One of my preconceptions coming into this graduate course is that Inquiry-Based Learning is used only in science classrooms.  During my undergraduate studies, I believe I was exposed to Inquiry-Based Learning during my science methods course.  That would have been 13 years ago now, so I am a bit fuzzy on the details.  During this undergraduate course, however, we were introduced to the 5 E Model where the teacher develops a unit based on student interests that consists of 5 lessons: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate and Evaluate.  I developed a unit based around the question “What Makes Day and Night?” for a class of Pre-Kindergarten students.  Based on this past experience, I felt that inquiry-based learning was for use solely in science classrooms.

After viewing The Teaching Channel Inquiry-Based Teaching Series that showcasesInquiry-Based Learning in action at Urban Academy in New York City, I have developed new insights (Newell, 2012).  In these videos, they demonstrated inquiry being used in both History and Literature classes.  Watching these videos opened my eyes to the fact that inquiry can take place in a variety of content areas, not just science, and that inquiry can take many different forms.

As part of our reading this week we read a list of Statements About Inquiry.  One statement that spoke to me was “Inquiry teaching is not chaotic — It is a carefully choreographed activity” (Topic B). I often think teachers do not attempt to integrate inquiry-based learning into their classrooms out of fear that it will lead to chaos.  In the Capacity Building Series, Secretariat Special Edition #32 published by The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Education it states: “It is a misconception that inquiry-based pedagogy means letting go of the class and allowing students to self-direct all aspects of their learning” (p. 5).  I will admit that I too had a preconception that Inquiry-Based Learning was a class management nightmare waiting to happen.  Thankfully, I have gained new insights this week and I can now label my preconception as a misconception!  I am hopeful that this course will give me the skill-set I need to implement Inquiry-Based Learning in the classroom!

Some of burning questions, that remain in my mind are:   Where does the 5 E Model fit in with Inquiry-Based Learning?  Does the 5 E Model promote inquiry-based learning?  What are other ways to develop and structure inquiry-based learning experiences?  I’m also curious with how Inquiry-based learning is connected to Project-Based Learning as I am also taking a course on this method of teaching as well.  If you have any insight on any of these questions, please leave a comment below! I’d also be interested to hear about any preconceptions and misconceptions you had about inquiry-based learning.


Donovan, M. S., & Bransford, J. D. (2005). How students learn: History in the classroom (pp. 1-2). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Newell, Beth (Producer). (2012). Inquiry-Based Teaching Series  [Video series]. New York, NY:      The Teaching Channel Retrieved from: https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/reasons-for-inquiry-based-teaching

The Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat of the Ontario Ministry of Education (May 2013). Inquiry- based Learning. Capacity Building Series, Secretariat Special Edition # 32. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/literacynumeracy/inspire/research/CBS_InquiryBased.pdf

Topic A: Personal History Regarding Inquiry Based Learning [EDIM 513-INA Course Content]. Retrieved from https://live.wilkes.edu/d2l/le/content/242169/viewContent/2609367/View

Topic B: Preconceptions of Inquiry [EDIM 513-INA Course Content]. Retrieved from https://live.wilkes.edu/d2l/le/content/242169/viewContent/2609368/View