An inquiry-based learning school
Above: some of our students delivering their end-of-term inquiry presentations.
Please note that we refer to an inquiry period as a academic unit, like a semester.
In the historical time frame of 1800 CE to 1945 CE, our curriculum is framed around these topics:
Here's a partial list of inquiry topics GATE students have taken on:
Inquiry 1: Life Cycles of Organisms -- butterflies and tomato hornworms
Inquiry 2: Humans and Technology - exploring differences between human made objects and natural objects and learning
Inquiry 3: Humankind's Cultures/Arts - North Americas - Native Americans stories and myths
Inquiry 4: Humankind's Rules - Money - minting, coinage, trade and the shift from barter to currencies, and Manners - exploring social conventions that make people relationships and communications easier
Inquiry 1: Organisms and Their Environments - looking at birds and bees, what they are, how to identify them, how they fly, what do they use for food and housing, which types of environments do they thrive in?
Inquiry 2: History of Science and Technology - Populations, Resources and Environments - Westward expansion in the United States, changes in population density, types of resources used by humans, and the variety and intersection of indigenous land use practices and immigrant land use.
Inquiry 3: Humankind's Cultures/Arts - Photography invention during the era, its forms from camera obscura to holographs to steroscopes to use of chemistry, and subjects taken by photographers around the world during the era
Inquiry 4: Humankind's Rules - Exploring immigration and emigration of families and a look a personal genealogies.
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 project scope and reach broadens depending on individual interests. Here is a partial list of topics studied in past years:
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.
GATE Academy's hallmark is inquiry-based learning. In a nutshell, inquiry-based learning requires learning to ask questions and seek understanding. Inquiry-based learning means that each student plays a substantial role in determining the content he or she studies within a particular broad inquiry topic. For example, in a Life Sciences unit on Life Cycles of Organisms, after a student learns the basic concept of a life cycle, he/she gets to do deeper work on a particular organism's life cycle, and is able to compare and contrast with other students' research on related and different organisms. 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 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 that require students to:
GATE's curriculum covers content beyond the reach of most K-8 schools. The process of Inquiry is our primary tool for exploration. Inquiry is similar to project based learning, in that projects are involved. It is different from project based learning, in that each student pursues a different project. Using the life cycles example above, if the class as a whole is focusing on life cycles of butterflies and moths, one student might study monarch butterfly life cycles, while another might study five spotted moth hawks, and a third might explore mission blue butterflies.
Our faculty teaches core content concepts and essential skills needed for effective investigation of an inquiry question, and mentors students in their exploration, analysis, synthesis, and communication skills. As you can imagine, this requires extensive practice of reading, writing, and oral expression skills.
Inquiry is a learning process applicable to all disciplines. It underpins all creative efforts, be they scientific or humanities-based. Through practicing inquiry, GATE Academy students learn how to learn: To wonder, question, analyze, critique, synthesize, communicate, and present to others on ....just about anything.