Curiosity-Driven and Rooted in Science Practices

What we know about our changing climate has been gained through a process of curiosity—people noticing phenomena, asking questions, and finding answers that often lead to more questions. Science is a messy and complex process, and does not follow the simplified step by step linear procedure that is often demonstrated in classroom labs and textbooks. In reality, scientists engage in many different practices in many different sequences.

To teach about a topic without knowing much about it can feel overwhelming, however, students learn best by guiding their own discoveries, so it is fine to learn right along with them. Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know, how might we find out the answer?" Just like real scientists, student investigations should be driven by their own observations, interests, and questions when possible. The questions "What do you notice?" and "What do you wonder?" help spur thinking at any age and can be used to guide students along a path of investigation and inquiry on authentic phenomena. Try out different talk moves to help students deepen their thinking. More guidance and scaffolding will be needed for the younger grades at first, but once they start to "learn how to learn," you may be surprised at their ability to carry out their own investigations. It may feel messy, but that is okay because science is messy!

Emphasize the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices as students are conducting their inquiry. The processes that students use to conduct their scientific investigations and engineering design challenges are a hugely important part of being able to understand climate science and how knowledge about the climate is generated. Understanding the practices that scientists use to develop knowledge about our climate can break down misconceptions and misunderstandings, and create a future where people can use science to make decisions. Another great reason why learning science in elementary is incredibly important!

For some examples from the CLEAN collection in leading students through scientific investigations, check out these resources:

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