An example of an early childhood approach to this type of learning could be the following: Similar to brainstorming techniques an "Exploration Center" could be set up as a box full of various objects and materials. The students are asked to look through the pile and pick out a few pieces, record their observations and/or questions about the objects and also the process of finding them. They can record this either though notes or a drawing or both. This would be followed by time sharing with the class what they have discovered (Best, 2007).
The point here is not necessarily to be literally correct with what they have found or observed, but being actively engaged in the learning experience of inquiry and developing a technique for exploring their world. This process begins to lay down patterns in the mind for future use when researching more complex subjects. The learner is able to apply the skills used in processing, categorizing, observing and evaluating to all subjects in a similar fashion. Therefore, instead of simply recalling facts the student is able to evaluate them, compare them to past experience and project that information into future probabilities.
This type of thinking is what inquiry-based learning establishes and promotes in the student. It also can allow students to actively understand important items in their own lives, as this fifth grade classroom in the San Miguel School in Providence, RI discovered: For three weeks students put aside their textbooks, surveyed what they knew about pizza, raised questions about this topic, explored books and magazines, and interviewed a waitress at the local pizzeria. In addition, they searched the Web, actually made 16 pizzas in the school kitchen, sold the fruits of their labors, donated the profits to an anti-hunger organization, and wrote letters to their senator urging him to support anti-hunger legislation (Oehlkers & Ruple, 2007). In this example not only can one see how actively engaged the student is and the amount of knowledge that is gained, but how that experience becomes wider and wider until it reaches out to touch the world. There have been several positive indications in the research between the results of inquiry-based learning as opposed to the traditional educational system of education: Research shows that the amount of student learning that occurs in a classroom is directly proportional to the quality and quantity of student involvement in the educational program (Cooper and Prescott 1989).
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