When a child is brought into this world, they begin to try to understand their new setting. Their senses help them to know the sound of their mothers heartbeat. Their senses learn about warmth and cold. Their senses open and the world around them flows in to the new understandings. It is their nature to explore their world with all their senses. They want to see, taste, feel, hear and touch the world around them. They are independent in that exploration and they are at full tilt until they enter Kindergarten. That natural curiosity has driven their understanding of the world they exist in and Kindergarten begins to change the independence to dependence. The teacher becomes the transmitter of the knowledge they gain about their world. That dependence makes it easy for some students they are fed information. Some students accept that depend and some rebel. It is in our nature to pursue understanding through all of our senses not just our hearing. We nurture a dependence on the transmitters of knowledge in our schools. It is no wonder some kids turn away from the traditional model of education. Today’s students need a different type of learning, one that taps that natural ability and curiosity to understand their world. Whether it be project-based learning, design thinking or genius hour or inquiry learning, it’s easy to get confused by the many education buzzwords floating about. But at their heart these pedagogies are all student-centered and there are commonalities across them that are the key to their success and far more critical than keeping the jargon straight.
Naturally, educators want to understand each of these frameworks in order to make an informed decision as to how to best meet the needs of their students. The “Tree of Inquiry” is a visual guide for educators who are interested in shifting their practice but are unsure where to begin. Inquiry Learning is the foundation for all of these student-centered strategies — students are asking their own questions, discovering answers and using their teachers as resources and guides. Schools and classrooms where deep inquiry is clearly at work invariably possess four specific characteristics no matter the specific type of inquiry utilized. They become deeper thinkers, embracing the trans-disciplinary world in which we live.