Inquiry-Teaching Students to Ask Questions That Can Be Investigated
In this introductory activity students will investigate leech activity. They will learn to ask a question about leech behavior that can be investigated. They will choose the method they determine is best to answer their question, and decide on the materials they will need. The students will follow the procedure they have decided on to learn the answer and will then present the results of their investigation using a chart.
2. Students will learn to design an experiment to answer their question
3. Students will learn to present their results to the public
1. Investigable questions are different from other questions
2. Methods can be designed to help answer their question
3. Not all methods will actually provide students with an answer to their question
4. Scientists present their data to the public
question, investigable, procedure
Context for Use
Day 1: (30 minutes) Introduce the leech activity
Day 2: (60 minutes) Design a question that can be investigated.
Day 3: (30-60 minutes) Design the method to investigate their question and determine the materials needed
Day 4: (45 minutes ++) Conduct the investigation and determine the results
Day 5: (60 minutes ++) Graph the results and present the graphs to the rest of the class (This could be spread over two days, graphing one day, the second to present class results).
Allotted time and number of days may be expanded or compressed depending on age and ability of students. The activity is fairly easy to adapt for use in other settings. Students should have rudimentary graphing skills in order to present their results in a graph.
Description and Teaching Materials
- Glass baking dish or pie pan
- Water from a lake
- A leech
- An overhead projector
- A board or chart paper
Day 2: Students will work with a partner to generate a question that can be investigated. The teacher will circulate and guide the students to an appropriate, investigable question. No special materials required on this day.
Day 3: Students will decide how they will answer their question. What kind of an investigation will they need to do to answer their question. When the students have decided on the type of investigation, they need to determine the materials needed to complete the investigation. (Some possibilities: additional containers for the leaches, construction paper, cardboard, stop watches, etc.) The teacher will circulate among the students to assist as needed.
Day 4: Materials:
- A bucket with leeches (at least one leech for each pair of students) in water
- Materials for the partner investigations
- Additional clear containers for leeches
- Students should have all the materials needed to conduct their investigation and will work with their partner to answer the question they chose. (Materials needed to conduct the investigation are variable and dependent on the particular investigation.) They will need to record the results of their investigation.
Day 5, continued (or Day 6): The last part of this activity is a presentation in which each of the charts with the investigable question, the graph, the results of the investigation and any further questions will be posted around the room and students will circulate to look at other students' work. This is a time when students may question the scientists so one of the partners should be at the poster at all times-they may take turns.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- A common area of confusion for many teachers as well as students is designing a question that is actually investigable. Students need to be able to conduct some type of investigation that will enable them to find the answer to their question.
- This is a live creature; set up guidelines for the safe handling (including investigations) of the live leech.
- Establish guidelines for student safety when handling the leech.
- Be sure to have access to a body of water (lake or river) in order to return the leeches to their natural environment.
Strand: History and Nature of Science
Sub-strand: Scientific Inquiry
Standard: The student will understand the nature of scientific investigations
1. The student will ask questions about the natural world that can be investigated scientifically.
2. The student will participate in a scientific investigation using appropriate tools.
3. The student will know that scientists use different kinds of investigations depending on the questions they are trying to answer.