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    Environmental issues are suited to inquiry investigations. This interactive guides you through the process. It uses the Rivers and Us programme as the subject for inquiry, but the process is transferable to most environmental issues.

    Select a label for more information, links to resources and questions for consideration.

    To use this interactive, move your mouse or finger over any of the labelled boxes and click to obtain more information.

    Transcript

    Inquiry and action learning process

    Using an environmental education inquiry process develops essential skills as students become involved in finding information, examining different points of view, communicating with others and problem solving for environmental improvement. Providing support and guidance of the process for students is key for successful learning and action outcomes. Some students will require more scaffolding than others.

    The skills involved in identifying, investigating and problem solving with environmental issues supports:

    • the New Zealand Curriculum’s vision, principles, values and key competencies
    • the aims of environmental education
    • the guiding principles of environmental education for sustainability
    • the science capabilities – specifically the gathering of data, use of evidence and engagement with science
    • meaningful and place-based cross-curricular learning
    • the New Zealand Government’s Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan.

    This interactive provides generic step-by-step guidance for planning and working through an inquiry investigation. It also includes links to Hub resources that will be beneficial in developing background knowledge and providing examples of commercial and community action.

    The article Rivers and Us – a context for learning provides additional curriculum and pedagogical information.

    Select here to view the video transcript and copyright information.

    Acknowledgement: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council

    Encouraging curiosity

    Create opportunities for students to become curious about the world around them. In this context, water is the focus. Encourage questioning, for example:

    • Why is the river water here different to the water downstream?
    • Why could my koro swim in the stream when he was young but we can’t?
    • What is water quality and how does it impact us?

    There may be local news articles or stories that you can utilise for engagement. Draw on community stories of how it used to be – from local marae or retirement villages – and explore changes over time.

    Resources

    Questions to consider

    • Have our local waterways always been like they are today?
    • Why?/Why not?
    • What are the issues affecting water?
    • How do these issues affect us and others?
    • Are we concerned about what we are discovering and understanding?
    • Why is this issue important to us?
    • What do we already know about this issue?
    • What can we predict about the future of our water?
    • What is our vision for the future of our water?

    Select here to view the video transcript and copyright information.

    Acknowledgement: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council

    Engage and understand

    Choose the main issue that students have connected with – what are they really interested in pursuing? Focusing on one issue at a time allows for deeper learning and understanding and reduces the risk of students – and teachers – feeling overwhelmed. It can also lead to a more achievable action or actions.

    This step develops thinking skills and information gathering to delve more deeply into the topic. It supports the science capabilities ‘Gather and interpret data’, ‘Use evidence’ and ‘Critique evidence’.

    Resources

    Questions to consider

    • Where does the issue occur?
    • What causes the issue to happen?
    • Who does the issue involve?
    • What resources do we need?
    • What other information might we need?
    • Where can we find this information?
    • What knowledge can we gain from local iwi as mātauranga Māori or from the local or regional council?

    Select here to view the video transcript and copyright information.

    Acknowledgement: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council

    Deciding on action

    This involves taking what we’ve learned and considering what we will do with the information and exploring alternatives. It is an ideal way to engage in cross-curricular learning. There is real potential to create opportunities for students to develop interviewing skills and co-operative skills, determine budgets, be creative and innovative, create technical plans and take action to become agents of change.

    Effective planning is a vital part of the action process. Consider whether there are established procedures or protocols you can use to add robustness and usefulness to any data collected.

    Resources

    Questions to consider

    • Who uses or manages the area/situation/process that we’d like to address?
    • Who do we need to involve?
    • Who do we need to consult before making decisions?
    • Are there tikanga or special customary traditions we need to follow?
    • What is our timeframe?
    • Is this a one-off action or do we need to plan for ongoing/future action?
    • Does the weather or the season influence when we should carry out our project?
    • What skills will we need?
    • What processes, methodologies or protocols do we need to follow to ensure that our actions provide quality data?
    • Who are the people who can help us with the processes or protocols?
    • How will we store or analyse any data we collect?
    • Will the project require funding or other resources?
    • How can we obtain funding/resources?
    • How will our actions lead to the change we are seeking?

    Acknowledgement: Andrea Soanes

    Taking action and communicating

    This enables students to participate and contribute with science in an authentic context. It helps them develop science capital – science knowledge, attitudes, skills and experiences. It also provides students with the opportunity to see themselves in science.

    Taking action enables students to feel empowered and able to make a difference. Taking action is different to participating in activities, as action leads to a result/change/impact as well as learning.

    Combined with action is communication about the information students have gathered during the planning stage and while they are carrying out the action. Communicating information is an effective means to engage with the community and to potentially get others involved with ongoing or future action. It also provides cross-curricular opportunities in speaking, writing and presenting.

    Resources

    Questions to consider

    • Are there safety considerations we need to consider?
    • Do we need to inform people about our work before we begin?
    • Do we have the resources we need to begin?
    • Are we familiar with the protocols and/or tools we will be using?
    • Do we need to follow tikanga or other customary practices before beginning or during our project?
    • Where can we go if we have questions while carrying out the project?
    • How are we working as scientists?
    • What methods, tools or practices are we using that are similar to what scientists do?
    • How will we record our actions and progress during and after the project?
    • When presenting information about the action we are taking, who is our audience?
    • What is the most effective way to get information about our mahi to our audience?
    • Is there a way that individuals or whānau outside of school can undertake similar action?
    • How can we support them to do this?

    Select here to view the video transcript and copyright information.

    Acknowledgement: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council

    Reflection and evaluation

    Developing students’ skills around reflection and critical evaluation are vital to building resilience. Not every prediction, idea or action will be effective, so building this aspect regularly into the inquiry learning and action cycle is important. Of course, reflecting on what went well and celebrating effective action is just as important.

    It is vital to scaffold the development of skilled reflection. Begin by creating a class vocabulary of words and meanings for student use. Encourage students to work peer to peer and individually on if/how the actions met their prediction or vision, what went well, what they might do differently and what their next steps might be

    Evaluation can be formal or informal. Formal evaluation could include pre-assessment and post-assessment to ascertain changes in science knowledge, content vocabulary or understanding of the nature of science. Alternatively, students can evaluate the effectiveness of the planning and action and whether it had the desired impact on the issue. Students can also self-evaluate their learning, individual efforts and/or change in attitude or perspective.

    Resources

    Questions to consider

    • What do we think/how do we feel about the issue now?
    • Have our attitudes changed?
    • Have the attitudes of people around us changed?
    • Did our actions meet our vision?
    • What have we learned?
    • What went well?
    • What could we change?
    • How can we monitor the effectiveness of our actions?
    • What should our next steps be?
    • Are there new or continuing actions we can take as a result of this project?

    Select here to view the video transcript and copyright information.

    Acknowledgement: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council

    Acknowledgement

    This interactive has been developed in partnership with the Waikato Regional Council as part of the Rivers and Us resource.

    Rights: The University of Waikato Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato and Waikato Regional Council Published 16 March 2020 Size: 220 KB Referencing Hub media