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Campus Spotlight: Littleton Lights Up With Inquiry-Based Learning

What is that blue line? Why does it drop down for two days and then go up again for five? And what does azimuth mean?

These and other questions lit up the room as students and, later, their parents explored the data generated by our solar panel monitoring system. Teachers, in their role of facilitators, encouraged participants in our solar inquiry to do just that—inquire, question, explore.image1-2

In September 2014, as a result of the efforts of six intrepid sixth graders and the support of State Farm Insurance Advisory Committee funding, Mackintosh Littleton installed solar panels on all three campus buildings. In addition to energy savings and commitment to the responsible use of natural resources, the monitoring systems that provide real time data about our energy generation and consumption are also the gifts that go on giving to our school community. And what better way to mine this rich world of information and empower students to seek understanding and reach new levels of interest in this important area than by utilizing an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning? As Wikipedia defines it: “Inquiry-based learning starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge.”

As if the path to true knowledge can ever be smooth. As if just giving answers can substitute for engaging students in active learning. As if the goal is always the end product and not the process of thinking, questioning, reflecting, adjusting, trying again.image1

Deep knowledge is not attained by a smooth path, and for it to be deep, it must launch a journey to more understanding… just as questions lead to others that, indeed, could change our world. What would happen if we turned out the lights when we out to recess? Or if we unplugged computers at night? How would the numbers change if we had a day without using the copy machine? And, what does azimuth mean?

 

~Diane Dunne, Mackintosh Academy-Littleton’s Head of School