Welcome to the Everyday Classroom Tools curriculum, Observing the World Around Us, which takes its form in The Threads of Inquiry. Before you begin, you will probably like to know how to use the Threads, what they will look like, and what resources are contained in their text. Please read on to find answers to these questions and more...

What does a typical curriculum Thread look like?

You will need: A section on materials needed by each Investigation appears in a grey box on the right side of the introduction page to each Thread. This section lists the different materials you will need to explore this Thread.
This box also lets you know the sort of time requirement you will need to investigate this topic thoroughly. Things such as: Does this require a sunny day? Repeated observations on an hourly, daily, or monthly scale? What is the materials-gathering time? Computer time? This section describes anything we can think of which will take time in or out of your classroom. This helps you to get a better grasp on the events and fit this curriculum into your own.

Title Well, first there is a name for each Thread, one which we hope will amuse as well as inform you about the topic it covers. Alongside this is a drawing or photograph showing others experiencing this Thread. Accompanying each Thread is a small icon which represents it. Above, here, you can see all ten of them.

Purpose: The purpose is three-fold. First, it provides an understanding for you of how the Thread fits into the overall scheme of the curriculum. It pinpoints the scientific motivations for this Thread, or why it is important for students to understand what is happening around them with regards to the Thread topic. Next, this section informs you of how this Thread fits into your classroom with regards to the National Science Education Standards. Finally, this section of the introduction suggests how this Thread can help you introduce vocabulary words which are useful for your discussions and which may be mentioned in NSES documents as useful for the science curriculum.

Teacher Background: The background information is not intended for the student. It is meant to provide you the teacher with data about the topic you are about to explore. Although the Threads are not designed to be vessels of content, it is often necessary for an educator to have a fair grasp of the geometry, physics, astronomy, or other disciplines relevant to the experience before feeling comfortable about facilitating the Thread in their classroom. We hope that this section will help you respond to questions from students in discussion with another question of your own geared to stimulate deeper understanding of the basics of the problem. We also would like this section to aid you in designing your own experiences for the students based on how you and they understand the content. With the information in the Teacher Background section, we hope you will be able to seek related themes and connected activities for your class, and in so doing, truly personalize this Thread. The end of this background section offers suggested reading from books and web sites which may be of use to you and your most highly inquisitive students.

A button here leads you back
to the Table of Contents Page.
As you progress through
the Threads, and additional button
will link to the previous
Thread you explored.
This section houses
a link to the latest version of the entire Thread in Adobe Acrobat format,
a suggested bibliography list,
folklore and mythology links
and WWW information sites related to this Thread.
A button here sends you to the Thread for
your grade level. They are
color coded and labeled.

Grade Level - Grade Level Each Thread is divided into sections based on three grade level divisions: K-2, 2-4, and 4-6.

Developmental Issues: Sections on developmental motivation and capacity describe in more detail how certain concepts in this Thread can enhance your students' learning experience by challenging, encouraging, and/or supporting their cognitive skills.

The Threads are divided into the grades kindergarten through second grade, second through fourth grade, and then fourth through sixth grade. This is not a rigid delimitation. Teachers of students on the borders of these groups, (i.e. second and fourth grades), should read both sections of the Trheads which apply to them. Decide, based on your knowledge of your classroom, which version of the Thread you feel is more appropriate for your students, or you may wish to integrate the two versions. Inquiry Introduction: The Thread then begins with some introductory discussion questions on this topic to get the inquiry ball rolling. The questions suggested in this portion of the Thread will guide your class along learning of this topic and its set of experiences.

Inquiry Investigation: Then the Thread sets into full swing, where students explore the topic through observation and analysis of their own experiences. The teacher is there as a guide to their discoveries and to move the students through the different arenas of learning. The text of this section is the most lengthy, as it offers questions, suggestions, and hands-on activities to bring students towards a deeper understanding of what they are exploring.

The use of student journals is highly encouranged for the upper grades, and places where we feel a journal entry should be made during the investigation have been noted in the text.

The Everyday Classroom Tools project utilizes the theories of inquiry-based learning through constructivismm which bases students' learning on past experiences and theory building. The National Science Education Standards also stress that the inquiry method be the backbone of science teaching for educational reform. Therefore, the text reads very much like a dialog between teachers and students which emulates an inquiry-based classroom. In the inquiry section, any text you see in this font is directed towards the teacher. The text in this font is in the form of specific direction, example of how students might respond to certain queries, or suggestions for further inquiry or projects. Think of this text as the author-teacher dialog, whereas this text is the teacher-student dialog.

A button here leads
you back to the Introduction
of this Thread.
As you progress through the
Threads, an additional button will
link to the Table
of Contents.
This section houses links to the Inquiry in the Classroom companion document
which provides some helpful strategies and suggestions for your inquiry experience.

Here in this box is also a button which links to
a set of teacher journals with suggestions (for your students' grade level) for related
activities (art, writing, and field trips,
for example). There is also a button which will link to an online form where you can contribute your own comments
to the journal file for this particular Thread.
A button here sends you
to the next Thread
for your grade level.
Buttons are color
coded and labeled.

Proceed now to the first of ten Threads, called To Seek or Not to Seek?

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