Oregon Students Ask and Answer Their Own Questions with IQWST

This month’s interview features Sarah Langton, a 6th grade science education leader at Raleigh Hills K-8 in Portland, OR. We asked Sarah what changes she has observed while using IQWST in her classroom, and here is what she told us.

Activate Learning:  In what ways has using IQWST affected your classroom culture?

Sarah:  Students were more invested and intrigued during the times I used IQWST. I think this may be because of the students taking charge of the DQB (Driving Question Board) and the scientific principles.

AL:  What are some ways that your students are demonstrating success in science as they use IQWST?

Sarah:  Students are citing the scientific principles as evidence for their conclusions! They are spending time trying to “make sense” of something they thought they understood, but is not behaving as they expected/predicted. They spent time collecting data, and are then using it to make conclusions (which they then tied to principles).

AL:  How have the materials themselves supported you as a science educator?

Sarah:  Having the box of materials for PS2 was incredibly helpful. Having the materials provided meant I could spend my time and energy on more meaningful things than hunting them down. I especially appreciated having the racquetballs and washers. Many companies omit supplies like that; assuming teachers have them or can get them.

AL: IQWST focuses on reading, writing, and talking science--as students “do” science. How do the reading and writing activities support your students as learners?

Sarah:  The readings are impressively engaging. The pictures enhance the reading experience. I feel like the connections they make between the science and the outside world are relevant to where my students are at developmentally. I also liked that the reading was not super content-heavy with vocabulary and complex concepts. The readings revealed small pieces of information that led students to make conclusions about what they were seeing with the science.

The writing part that I liked the best was the explanations. I have tried to teach this before and not had much success with students being able to support their claim, much less add in scientific evidence. I really like how there is a gradual release as the unit progresses.

AL:  What particular pedagogical practice or strategy has been particularly useful to you? (e.g., reading strategies, the Driving Question Board, assessment strategies, CER framework)

Sarah:  Definitely the DQB. Teaching with IQWST allows students to use a variety of methods to uncover knowledge about a science concept or phenomena. They read about it, talk about it, write about it, do it… but all of this is driven by trying to answer some of their own questions on the DQB. There is ownership in learning when it is taught this way. Students are not just doing something because I said so; they are trying to uncover the truth!  That is pretty powerful for kids.

AL: What differentiates IQWST from other science curricula?

Sarah:  IQWST is a great balance between content and learning what good science is. I believe my students will be better prepared for the next levels of science because of this curriculum.