Science Teaching and Learning through Inquiry and Context

Sponsored by Crown Region Higher Consortium for Mathematics and Science

What is Inquiry?

According to the National Science Foundation's Overview of the Standards,

"Learning science is something that students do, not something that is done to them. Hands-on activities, while essential, are not enough. Students must have minds-on experiences as well. Inquiry is central to science learning. When engaging in inquiry, students describe objects and events, ask questions, construct explanations, test those explanations against current scientific knowledge, and communicate their ideas to others. They identify their assumptions, use critical and logical thinking, and consider alternative explanations. In this way, students actively develop their understanding of science by combining scientific knowledge with reasoning and thinking skills."

To learn more about what inquiry is, visit The Exploratorium Institute of Inquiry.

Inquiry Lesson Plans and Activities

  • Bats is a science inquiry lesson for Kindergarten and 1st grade students.
  • Exhaust, Gas, and Pollution is an inquiry lesson provided by the Utah 9th Grade Science Core. It leads students through the steps involved in testing various gases.
  • Foam Activity is a three-part activity which uses foam to distinguish between inquiry-based instruction and other hands-on approaches.
  • Investigating Wind Energy provides four activities designed to improve critical thinking through the inquiry approach to instruction.
  • Ice Balloons: Exploring the Role of Questioning in Inquiry is an activity designed to develop critical thinking skills.
  • Parachutes is an Exploratorium inquiry activity which utilizes structured curriculum materials like kits. It is designed to assist teachers with adapting existing materials toward a more inquiry-based method of instruction.
  • Process Circus is an inquiry lesson plan provided by the Exploratorium which provides twelve activities designed to support an understanding of the process skills essential to inquiry.
  • Temperature Changes in the Atmosphere is another inquiry lesson provided by the Utah 9th Grade Science Core. It provides opportunities for students to test different variables that affect temperature.
  • Selenium: A Window on Wetlands provides a lesson to determine how contaminants move and change in an ecosystem.
  • Exploring the Environment provides earth science modules designed to engage high school students in the practice of scientific inquiry and analysis. This site is sponsored by NASA Classroom of the Future.

Florida Focus


Florida Business and Industry

Florida Environments

Florida Water Management Districts
Florida Health
  Florida Science Museums
  • Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is located at one of the highest points in Florida. The gardens include plants and wildlife, as well as exhibits.
  • Children's Science Center in Cape Coral desires to share the love for mathematics, science, and technology to both children and adults.
  • Florida Aquarium in Tampa is an exhibit that is as much like the natural environments of Florida's fish, plants, and other creatures as possible. The aquarium includes habitats such as mangrove forest, bays and beaches, and offshore.
  • Harbor Branch Oceanographic Museum in Fort Pierce features a bus or boat tour which shows submarines, ships, and leading-edge science facilities. Dolphins, manatees, sharks, and bald eagles could also be found at the museum.
  • Miami Museum of Science in Miami provides the Planetarium, Wildlife Center, and more than 100 hands-on exhibits, including Smithsonian Expeditions, Busy Town, and Sports Challenge. The museum plans to create an international science center in association with the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach
  • Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale feels it is important to grant exhibits and programs which instill the understanding and appreciation of science to school-aged children.
  • Museum of Science and History in Jacksonville furnishes numerous exhibits, such as Atlantic Tails, Bats, Current of Time, The Living Room, and The Maple Leaf. The museum also has a planetarium and provides both science and history programs for schools.
  • Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa renders hands-on exhibits, Imax dome theater, and Saunders Planetarium. The museum offers more than 450 "minds-on" interactive activities for all ages.
  • Odyssey Science Center in Tallahassee gives children and adults an understanding of science and technology through permanent and interactive exhibits, such as Weather Station, Hydrogeology, Star Lab, and Early Voyages.
  • Orlando Science Center in Orlando has ten exhibition halls with hands-on interactive exhibits. The CineDome presents films and planetarium shows on an eight-story domed screen.
  • Robert Krampf's Science Education Company in St. Augustine presents shows about electricity, lightning, fire, dinosaurs, and energy. Mr. Krampf will help schools start a science museum and will train and consult with teachers.
  • South Florida Science Museum and Aldrin Planetarium in West Palm Beach provides the McGinty Saltwater Aquarium, the Buzz Aldrin Planetarium, and hands-on interactive exhibits. The Aquarium includes eight salt water aquariums. The Planetarium presents star shows and laser concerts. Exhibits include Weather, Light and Color, Sound and Resonance, Energy and Electricity, and Brain Teasers.
  • South Florida Museum, Bishop Planetarium & Parker Manatee Aquarium in Bradenton includes a planetarium which provides simulation of past, present, and future skies. Laser shows and special effects are seen on a regular basis. The Aquarium is home to "Baby Snoots," the first recorded manatee born in captivity. It is also home to other manatees and endangered species.
  • Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science in Tallahassee has a natural habitat zoo of indigenous wildlife, historical buildings and artifacts, and an environmental science center on a fifty-two acre lake side setting.

Museum Connections

  • The California Academy of Sciences features three museums in one: the Natural History Museum, The Steinhart Aquarium, and the Morrison Planetarium. Its web server provides a wealth of information on various topics.
  • Elementary, Secondary, and Informal Education Programs and Initiatives provides a comprehensive listing of federal, university, and private on-line science museum sites.
  • The Exploratorium is a museum with over 500 interactive "hands-on" exhibits focusing on science, art, and human perception. Its Institute for Inquiry provides a collection of inquiry resources, graduate resources, and inquiry exhibits.
  • The Field Museum in Chicago, IL features various exhibits, student/teacher programs, research information and more.
  • The Franklin Institute Science Museum provides a wealth of resources for "inquiring minds." Visit here to learn about the ocean, volcanoes, earthquakes, El Nino, and more. An online magazine is also available entitled the inquiry Almanac.
  • The Hands On Children's Museum in Olympia, Washington provides online information about various exhibits focusing on body basics, Ms. Frizzle and the Magic Schoolbus Inside the Body, opportunities to explore wildlife in your own backyard.
  • The Imagination Station in Wilson, North Carolina is a facility dedicated to the advancement of inquiry based education. Visit this site to learn about its ongoing programs and projects.
  • The Miami Museum of Science features a special exhibit on wildlife, along with other exhibits which focus on the youth, ecology, the American Indians, sports, and more. Educational resources are also available.
  • The Museum Institute for Teaching Science in Boston, Massachusetts is a nonprofit institute that promotes science, math, and technology through hands-on inquiry based instruction.
  • The Museum of Science in Boston welcomes its visitors with online exhibits, programs, resources for teachers, and related links.
  • The Natural History Museum in London, England provides visitors with online databases on dinosaurs and plants, an interactive investigation called "Quest," a feature on myths and monsters, and more.
  • The New England Science Center is a regional environmental museum which provides programs on astronomy, wildlife, and online projects. Visitors can obtain current New England weather reports taken from the roof of their building.
  • The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry features a virtual exhibit on the forest's cycles and management, along with various online projects and resources for educators. At the
  • Science Museum in London, England, visitors can discover interesting facts about vision through online experiments, learn about different types of materials in our world, journey through the history of flight, learn about online educational projects, and more.
  • The Science Museum of Minnesota describes itself as the "Upper Midwest's place for discovery since 1907." It features online exhibits and projects and various educational resources.
  • Smithsonian Museums and Research Centers offers a wide range of educational resources including links to seventeen museums and nine research centers.

Stimulate Inquiry

  • Environment 97 provides information from a major environmental on-line conference and exhibition organized by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). This site includes hundreds of listings for environmental case studies.
  • Technology Association of America, an organization sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, strives to increase technology literacy of all Americans. To support this effort, it has provided this site which includes information on technology standards, field testing, and public relations materials.
  • Microworlds describes itself as an interactive look at current research in the materials sciences at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source. Visitors learn what the Advanced Light Source is, what it looks like, how it works, how materials science relates to environmental problems, and more.
  • Robert Krampf: Science Education Company provides programs on electricity, lightning, fire safety, dinosaurs, energy, and more. The Science Education Company is located in St. Augustine, FL and works with museums, universities, schools, and others across the United States in an effort to make science fun and understandable.
  • GLOBE is a worldwide network of students, teachers, and scientists working together to conduct research and develop an understanding of our global environment via the Internet. This site provides activities which assists students to improve achievement in science and math.
  • Eisenhower Consortium for Mathematics and Science Education at SERVE provides networking and professional development opportunities, resources, publications, and contact information as they strive to promote systemic reform in mathematics and science education in the Southeast.
  • ENC Online provides a comprehensive selection of K-12 math and science resources.
  • Access Excellence is a site for high school biology teachers which makes scientific information from fellow educators and scientists available via the World Wide Web. This site includes activities, forum opportunities, on-line projects, science seminars, and more.
  • NASA Classroom of the Futures World Wide Web Site extends an invitation for teachers to participate in a five day Integrated, Math, Science, and Technology Teacher-Leader Institute providing opportunities to explore relationships between math, science, and technology with real-world, problem-solving projects.
  • NASA Spacelink provides educational services, instructional materials, and NASA news, projects, and overviews. Search capabilities within the NASA site are also available.
  • Science Friday Kids Connection is a site based on a weekly science talk show which focuses on science topics currently in the news. Ira Flatow, a science journalist, discusses science issues.
  • Challenger Learning Center provides educational resources and programs, information on current events, teacher training opportunities, along with a mailbox. This site keeps visitors informed on current events in the space community while providing numerous space related educational activities.
  • HILITES Global Schoolhouse allows teachers to communicate with other teachers around the world. It is a site which includes information about exciting global collaborative classroom learning projects, along with the ability to create, promote, and conduct collaborative projects of your own.
  • Rotten Truth is a site which reveals the true story about garbage. Learn what we consider to be garbage, where garbage comes from, where it goes, and how it affects the environment. This on-line exhibition is divided into four main areas: What is Garbage?, There's No "Away", Nature Recycles, and Making Choices.
  • Explore Our Resources provides a wealth of inquiry instructional resources from the Science Inquiry Network. Topics include earth forces, El Nino, atoms, water in the city, weather, cycling, hockey, auroras, windmills to whirligigs, air travelers, water works, hurricanes, wind, and more.
  • The Heart Preview Gallery provides an online tour of the heart.
  • Visit the Hurricane Storm Science site to learn about the inside a hurricane, weather instruments, killer storms. In addition, students can meet survivors of hurricanes and hear about their experiences.
  • Microscopes, Cells, DNA, and You is an inquiry-based resource for learning about and teaching optics, cells, and DNA.
  • Partners For Growing Investigations in Plant Science for Grades 1-4 provides instructional resources for students and teachers.
  • The Discovery Channel Online provides features, expeditions, mind games, animal cams, and more.
  • The IMSEnet Teachers site offers numerous workshops available to enhance science instruction.

 National Science Initiatives




Coordinated by Dr. Marianne Barnes, Professor
University of North Florida
College of Education and Human Services
Department of Foundations and Secondary Education