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Exploring Science as Transactional Inquiry:
A Working Group on Elementary Science Education

A Starting Story/Metaphor for Science/Inquiry
"Being In the Game" Alice Lesnick
18 October 2006

In thinking about the first meeting of this group and how to make it useful for everyone, I thought I'd share a few thoughts and also a few of the vantage points from which I offer them. As a third grade teacher during the 1980's, I stumbled into an inquiry-based approach to science as a way through a science fair my class was required to participate in. As with other things I got to do as a schoolteacher (drawing and dribbling a basketball come to mind), teaching science allowed me to recover a way of knowing and doing and asking questions that had gotten away from me for fear that I lacked sufficient mastery or talent to stay in the game.

Years later, as a faculty member in the Bryn Mawr/Haverford Education Program, I focused on teaching science as inquiry in the senior seminar I lead for students completing the Minor in Educational Studies. It was a generative to help my students explore curriculum design and try to teach in a way that allows for ongoing, dynamic uncertainty and access to (and from) the lived, particular experience of learners. A couple of former students from that time -- now teachers -- are members of this working group, along with current students and other colleagues at the College and beyond.

Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of participating in the Lansdowne/Bryn Mawr project. What has been exciting to me about the Lansdowne project and Paul's framework for inquiry-based science is that they are developing organically and reciprocally, through a patient, situated process of dialogue, reflection, and evolving intention. Paul talks about inquiry in science as a process of making observations and interpretations -- each informed by and informing the other -- that gives rise to explanatory stories. The stories, in turn, clarify what is at stake in the interpretations and catalyze further stories, confirming ones and alternatives. Paul's framework focuses on teachers and students as observers, thinkers and storytellers. It doesn't dominate teachers and learners by trying to fill them up with right knowledge or correct procedure or good attitude. Instead, it opens a way of thinking (informed by experience and imagination) and invites people to use it.

That's my story, anyway. I'm interested in the stories that the members of this group bring about science and inquiry. What are your frameworks? I think it might be helpful for us to consider, as a way of beginning, the metaphors for science learning that we carry. Storytelling is one you will hear about here. Being in the game is one I started this writing with. What are yours?

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