What a week! There are many smiling students who have enjoyed a week of learning “outside the box.” There are several exhausted teachers, obviously pleased that it’s Friday and proud of what their kids have accomplished. You parents have probably even noted a topical shift in conversation from the back seat on the way home or around the dinner table. I would call this first week of inquiry-based learning through projects a great success.

In the course of five days our kids have learned a lot about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. They’ve learned how St. James and the surrounding neighborhood figured into the story. They’ve also seen the value of asking good questions and collaborating with peers to discover answers. All the field education, guest speakers, dioramas, models, experiments, and exhaustive research were definitely worth it.

As a result of this week, our kids should take pride in knowledge gained and skills developed. They should take ownership of these successes since they figured in directly to what and how we were learning. And they should be excited for the next time we try this (February) with a new topic and new teams.


Here are some highlights from the week:

“The highlight of my week has been seeing how the third and fourth graders are working together in teams.  Each group was asked to find topics they are interested in, narrow those topics down to a guiding question, and create a project based on that question.  Every group was able to navigate this task and problem solve their way through creation a group project and presentation.  The projects they came up with are amazing!” Stephanie Bending, Third Grade Teacher

“The highlight of my week has been watching the students love for learning blossom into engaging conversations, projects, and research papers. They have truly enjoyed learning about The Great Chicago Fire, and already looking forward to the next inquiry week!” Kaitlyn Gardner, Fourth Grade Teacher

“Seeing the children’s excitement for the store they built and the teamwork they exhibited while taking on their shop roles were both such highlights when we welcomed parents for our culminating event during this past Inquiry Week.” Meredith Boese, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

“After reading several narratives from children who experienced The Great Chicago Fire, students were asked to image they were alive during the fire.  Working independently they created diary entries to describe their experience. It was amazing to read how accurately they described their fictional experience using what they learned in class.” Kristina Kaldis, Second Grade Teacher

“My highlight is going to the history museum and seeing the kids so engaged in learning about Chicago’s history.” Lora Webster, First Grade Teacher

“The highlight of my week was seeing how each student got involved in a different aspect of the topic. Their personalities and learning styles really were complimented by the freedom to explore the topic and each presented different information to all of the parents at our Culminating event.” Lynda Adams, Early Childhood Program Director 

“All of the children’s faces and reactions when they found out their hard work selling donuts helped 8 families have the opportunity to serve turkey at their Thanksgivings. They were so proud of their service.” Kristina Buschle, Junior Kindergarten Teacher

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