Quick Take: What is Inquiry?

 During a climate science course held at BU last year, my cohort members and I openly wondered about how the acidification of Earth’s bodies of water would impact the growth of algae, the base of most if not all aquatic food chains of our world. Using water from the lagoons along the Charles River and adjusting their pH levels with minute amounts of vinegar our results were inconclusive at best, leaving us with more questions than answers and a greater appreciation for the complexity of aquatic systems.

The first image that comes up when I google image “inquiry.”

This form of inquiry, known as “open inquiry,” is exactly the type of scientific inquiry professional scientists to curious children use everyday in the pursuit of advancing knowledge of the unknown. To engage in scientific inquiry one must be able to not only ask questions but imagine and execute investigations that attempt to answer such questions by collecting tangible data to be analyzed and interpreted by them and their peers. Engaging in scientific inquiry is not a lone expedition. It takes cooperation and the perspectives of many as the explanations we conjure from our data meets rigorous challenges and debates from others who have likewise shared alternative methods, results, and explanations to similar questions. If I have learned anything from courses like the BU one referenced earlier it is that open inquiry is rarely easy and requires tremendous development of ones own scientific skills to effectively complete. This is why its important that school systems such as our own provide structured or guided forms of inquiry in their curriculum. To develop the next generation of “open inquiry” experts we need to provide them opportunities to learn and practice such inquiry supporting skills beforehand. Such opportunities will be invaluable to our budding scientists and engineers as they work to advance our scientific understanding of the world and solve our planet’s greatest problems and challenges.


About MrMusselman

K-5 Science Specialist for the Burlington Public Schools of Burlington, MA.
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