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Inquiry Adventures at Sand Ridge Nature Center

Posted by Ron Wolford -

On Wednesday, students from Earle STEM visited the Sand Ridge Nature Center to attend a program organized by the University of Illinois Extension called Inquiry Adventures. This program allows students to become the scientists and conduct their own scientific investigation about the forest. The students are divided into groups of four or five and sent into the woods to design an experiment that follows their interests. They come up with comparative questions as the main focus of their experimental design and take their research from there. Comparative questions are questions that are testable and measurable. For example, one of the group's questions was "Are there more animals found on dry land or on wet land?"

After the question was established, the students made a predicted answer to this question and created an experimental design to test the comparative question. They predicted that there would be more animals found on dry land than on wet land. To test our question on animal populations, our students created two 12ft X 12ft plot, one on dry land and one on wet land. These plots were then searched for four and a half minutes for any evidence of animals such as scat, tracks, bite marks, or the animals themselves. The area with the most animal evidence was the answer to the comparative question. After creating the procedure, the student scientists compiled a list of items they will need to conduct the experiment and then actually went out and conducted the experiment. They then compiled the data over lunch and created a bar graph of the results. Our group found that there was more evidence of animals on wet land than on dry land. After lunch, each group presented their findings to their classmates and the class was given the opportunity to ask any questions about each study.

This is a great program that gives students the opportunity to think like a scientist and actually become a scientist themselves. We really enjoyed watching the students become enthusiastic over the smallest things. For example, our group found an ant colony with eggs. This was very exciting for them and everyone had to have a look. Additionally, they were able to use their senses to make observations about the world around them and ask questions. It was truly a privilege to see these kids look at the forest with awe and wonder, and we were glad to be part of it.

Abigail and Jasmine

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