Academy of Environmental Sciences
Dutch Fork Elementary offers a comprehensive inquiry-based, hands-on program which is
focused on the natural environment and immerses children in learning based on discovery and exploration, collaborative study, scientific research, use of scientific tools and technology, and a strong sense of community.
We embrace inquiry as a stance, not a method or set of activities. At Dutch Fork we take this stance toward teaching, learning, curriculum, and assessment across ALL content areas.
We teach our students to carefully observe the world using tools and strategies of the discipline. The following are a few examples:
- Instead of teaching about fish, we invite children to think, work, and communicate as ichthyologists.
- Instead of teaching solely about matter, we invite children to think, work, and communicate as chemists.
- Instead of teaching about Reconstruction, we invite children to think, work, and communicate as historians and anthropologists.
Observation Unites All Disciplines
- As Dr. Heidi Mills has taught us, “All learning, regardless of content, begins with careful, systematic observation.”
We believe language is integral in the learning process. As a result we use language or talk that promotes inquiry at DFES:
- I noticed…
- I wondered…
- I appreciated…
- I learned…
- I felt…
- I thought…
- I made a connection…
- I use to think…but now I know
Our teachers write curriculum (known as units of study). During this process they carefully consider investigations that will promote authentic inquiry. Thoughtful consideration is made to determine if observations, interviews, experiments, surveys, or controlled studies support a given inquiry.
Touchstone experiences, experiences that are revisited over and over again to deepen and broaden learning, are included and are foundational to all of our units of study. These may include field studies, expert projects, personal passion projects, learning celebrations, and author studies to name a few.
Finally for our units of study two additional considerations are made. The first includes strategies for students to reflect on and document their learning. We consider how we might have students demonstrate growth and change? Students consider new questions they have as a result of a unit of study. Ultimately we try to make a determination of action that can be taken based on what was learned during a unit of study.