“They’re learning more because they’re the ones doing it, coming up with the questions and finding the answers…It’s not just me sitting up there presenting it to them, reading a science book during science time…Everything is integrated; everything leans off of each other. Reading helps us learn; reading takes us places.” -First grade teacher Apryl Whitman
In the Water Pollution Inquiry Unit, Ms. Whitman integrated English/Language Arts, Science, and Social Studies. Growing out of the children’s experience with floods in their communities in Columbia in the fall of 2015, the water pollution unit had immediate significance for their lives. The children were able not only to use literacy to learn about scientific concepts, but to take action in teaching others how to prevent pollution of drinking water.
The unit proceeds as follows:
Phase of Inquiry
Video Clips and Supporting Documents
Before the Unit
From the beginning of the year, the students had been discovering the strategies proficient readers use to learn from nonfiction texts. They learned how to monitor and record their questions and thinking, to use text features to help them understand, and how to work collaboratively to gain information from various types of texts.
Through read-alouds, videos, and class discussions, the students began to wonder and learn about where their drinking water comes from. This was of particular interest because they had not been able to drink the water from the tap or drinking fountains during the floods.
Students made webs about how they and their families use water, and collages of pictures from magazines of ways fresh water is used.
Students were taught to use QR codes to access videos on iPods to learn more about fresh water resources.
The investigation phase of the inquiry began with each pair of students examining a different photograph that showed some type of water pollution and/or attempts to clean it up. The teacher modeled and then the children worked to annotate their pictures with their questions and inferences. Central questions of the inquiry were developed from this lesson.
Students then began several days of research into causes and effects of water pollution, and potential ways to prevent it. They used videos on iPods and iPads, websites on computers, and self-selected nonfiction books to build their knowledge. Through daily sharing, they added to the class understanding of the central questions, “What makes water dirty?” and “How can we prevent water pollution?”
Students planned posters to explain to others a major cause of water pollution and how to prevent it. With this project in mind, they synthesized their knowledge from the investigation phase to incorporate into their presentations.
Children created water pollution prevention posters. They shared them with the class and guests involved in water conservation in the Columbia area. Some also were broadcast on the school morning news.