| By Gintas Bradunas |
Consider the elementary school teacher struggling to keep her students engaged. In addition to keeping them on track, she has lofty goals to implement inquiry-based learning—to both immerse them in new ideas and instill a joy of learning. Sunday night, she was sure her lesson plan would be a hit, but now, as she hustles from Zoom calls to emails to the learning management system (LMS), trying to get students to safely navigate Google to complete their project, she can feel it all going sideways.
“I can’t find the answer!”
“This is too hard!”
“I wonder why . . .”
As a former teacher, I relate all too well to this familiar scene. In my case, it was the “I wonder . . .” questions that would cause the most significant challenge. All too often they went unanswered, or at best, they were answered with short, incomplete responses. Without reliable resources to direct students to, I found myself answering everyone’s questions directly rather than empowering students to find the answers themselves.
Inquiry-based learning is the gold standard of education. It’s an approach that (1) puts the student at the center; (2) encourages them to seek answers; and (3) empowers them to create, discuss, and reflect in a way that builds a love of learning. But as any teacher knows, it’s easier said than done.
That’s why the right resources can make all the difference.
For teachers working to create authentic, inquiry-based learning experiences, it’s essential to use tools specifically built for the needs of students and educators. When I was a teacher, not having access to reliable resources created an uphill battle. My students found sites difficult to navigate, causing them to join in a common refrain: “This is too hard, Mr. Bradunas!” I would watch my students’ eyes glaze over and could sense that rather than encouraging curiosity, my approach was draining it away.
Now, in my current role, I help develop products that my former teacher self would’ve loved. Over the past year, I’ve been fortunate to work on the recently launched Gale In Context: Elementary (an enhanced version of Kids InfoBits), a content repository that empowers inquiry-based learning. Our main goal was to refine students’ approaches to inquiry by adding features and tools that make it easy for them to use. In this, our team implemented one element especially well: staying on the child’s level. For example, Elementary has rotating “I wonder…” prompts on the home page. These questions are linked directly to curated resources for students to explore, encouraging curiosity and keeping frustration at bay.
In addition, we added content created specifically for elementary school students who are just beginning to develop research skills. Gale In Context: Elementary includes new topic pages with hundreds of quick facts, topic summaries, and of course, thousands of resources drawn from kid-friendly publishers. All of these features come together to create a resource that teachers can depend on and feel comfortable recommending to students.
As a first-year teacher, one of my mentors introduced me to a teacher’s version of the Hippocratic Oath: “No matter what, don’t do anything that will make your students stop asking questions and exploring.” Gale In Context: Elementary helps teachers keep that promise.
Interested in seeing Gale In Context: Elementary in action? View the recorded webinar >>