.Above: some of our students delivering their end-of-term inquiry presentations.
Below: A partial list of inquiry topics our kids have been studying in the past two inquiry units. (Our 2017/19 historical time frame is 13.2 BCE to 500 BCE. Inquiry 1 focuses on Earth and Space Science while Inquiry 2 looks at Science, Technology and Societies. Inquiry 3 explores Physical Sciences. Inquiry 4 & 5 examine Social Studies: the Origins of Rule and the Origins of the Humanities, while Inquiry 6 focuses on Life Sciences.)
Inquiry 1: Objects in the Sky: Gravitation, galaxies, our solar system, magnitudes (size and distance), nearby stars, light years, and star formation.
Inquiry 2: The emergence of life on Earth, the appearance of primates, evolution of humans, and paleontology used to investigate these ancient origins, presented in song and dance with huge timeline and all school Q&A.
First- Second Grades
Inquiry 1: Objects in the Sky: Our moon, its phases, orbit, rotation, materials, formation, and exploration, including moon models, rocks from NASA, astronomy night on our local mountain with a NASA scientist, and presentations of these topics to the school.
Inquiry 2: Personal Health: Germs -- widespread diseases of 1800-1945, their conditions and modes of transmission, early prevention efforts and discoveries, and medical developments of the era.
Inquiry 1: Properties of Objects: Rocks, rocks and more rocks, from gems to sediments, labs on metamorphosis to breaking apart geodes, and poster presentations about a selected rock, from formation to usage to significant historical events to chemical composition.
Inquiry 2: History of Science and Science as Human Endeavor: Investigation of the scientists behind different discoveries, insights and inventions during 1800-1945, with each child exploring a particular scientist in depth, from Mendeleev to Tesla to Curie to Dalton to Nobel to Einstein and more, with peer interviews and re-enactments.
Inquiry 1: Structure of Earth's System: Geology, the water cycle, and waves played out in the world's oceans, with each child investigating a different oceanographic topic including plate tectonics, deep sea vents, underwater submersibles, salinity and currents, and more, culminating in "interview the expert" presentations.
Inquiry 2: Personal and Social Perspectives on Technology: Trains, Planes and Automobiles as emergent transportations, with each student selecting an particular example, building a model, and making a movie about their chosen transportation innovation.
Upper School: Inquiry is increasingly individualized as the kids reach Upper School, and reach of projects broaden depending on individual interests. Here is a partial list of topics studied in the Spring of 2016:
Sixth-Seventh Grades: Inquiry 4: US in World War II - individual research in original historical source materials, including current survivor interviews, then making "newsreel" type movies on topics such as D-Day, the invasion of Pearl Harbor, German concentration camps, Japanese internment camps, General Douglas McArthur, the annexation of Poland, the siege of Leningrad, and more.
Seventh-Eighth Grades: Inquiry 3: Early Studies of Atoms - general content about subatomic particles, production methods and theory, including building models of atoms and particles, with rap battles between students on topics such as Newtonian Physics v. Quantum Mechanics, young Einstein v. older Einstein, Gravitational Forces v. Strong Force, and more.
An inquiry-based learning school
GATE Academy's hallmark is inquiry-based learning. In a nutshell, inquiry-based learning means that each student plays a substantial role in determining the content he or she studies. As students become more skilled with inquiry, they may chose the manner in which they investigate their questions and the way that they present their work to others.
At GATE, Inquiry is a core class. Inquiry is keyed to a five-year time cycle (covering prehistory to the present day) and each year of that five-year cycle is divided into six academic periods called units of inquiry. Of those six academic periods, three are devoted to science, and three to social science/humanities. This cycle ensures that our students get exposure to a very broad range of science and humanities content within an historical framework.
Inquiry is a process using a set of skills. It requires students to:
• Frame targeted questions that can be explored
• Investigate, using a variety of sources, tools, and techniques
• Create a product that analyzes, synthesizes, and communicates their exploration clearly
• Present their findings to the entire school.
GATE's curriculum covers content beyond the reach of most K-8 schools. The process of Inquiry is our primary tool for exploration.
In Inquiry, our faculty teaches both core content concepts and essential skills needed for an effective investigation of an inquiry question. Our faculty mentors students in their exploration, analysis, synthesis, and communication skills.
Inquiry is a learning process applicable to all disciplines. It underpins all creative efforts, be they scientific or humanities-based. In short, through practicing Inquiry, GATE Academy students learn how to learn: To wonder, question, analyze, critique, synthesize, communicate, and present . . . just about anything.