Teaching Sciences by Ocean Inquiry
Inquiry Based Education
Held at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole, ME
Summers 2006 through 2008
Student engagement is a challenge faced by educators at all academic levels. Inquiry based approaches are a potential remedy for this problem. Through experimental designs that are conceptually analogous to real world systems, students can ideally expand their personal experience to larger "real world" systems. The experimental setups used in the workshop and portrayed on this website can be created or bought for a relatively low price... though the benefits can be priceless. (Contributed by Adam Casey, workshop TA)
Inquiry is the broad, complex process by which scientists search for knowledge and understanding of the natural and human-made world. "It is far more flexible than the rigid sequence of steps commonly depicted in textbooks as 'the scientific method'. It ismuch more than just 'doing experiments', and it is not confined to laboratories" (AAAS, 1993, p. 9). Some techniques of inquiry are prediction, question generation, measurement, generation of falsifiable hypotheses, exploration, and invention of generalizations, and concept testing by application.

Concept Mapping Basics

The National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) call for teaching students via scientific inquiry: "In the same way that scientists develop their knowledge and understanding as they seek answers to questions about the natural world, students develop an understanding of the natural world when they are actively engaged in scientific inquiry - alone and with others" (p. 29). Science students are not conducting inquiry when they are merely taught about the products of science (facts, concepts, principles, laws, and theories) and about some of the techniques of science, and then only verify some of the products of science.

In Teaching Sciences by Ocean Inquiry, science teachers explored many inquiry techniques and their pedagogical foundations. When presented with activities using inexpensive apparatus to apply physical science concepts (e.g., density, pressure, buoyancy, and waves) to the understanding of ocean and climate processes, the teachers generated many of the questions to be investigated and decided how to investigate them. Concurrently, the teachers were introduced to many inquiry-friendly pedagogical techniques (e.g., learning cycle, case study, cooperative learning, triangulation of the assessment of student learning).


American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (1993). Benchmarks for Science Literacy: Project 2061. New York: Oxford University Press.

National Research Council (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.