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College of Science and Engineering

What is Inquiry?

Inquiry-based science puts the learner in control of their own investigation. By asking questions, designing investigations, and reflecting on their observations, youth develop their own self-identity as scientific learners. Inquiry science uses four key practices, which we've translated here to demonstrate how they align with the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. But we also believe these practices are broadly applicable to afterschool and community youth organizations, and can be used in a variety of informal learning settings.

Meaningful Decision-Making

We know this as "girl-led." Girls have opportunities to make meaningful decisions that impact the outcome of their activity. They identify questions to ask and ideas to try. They try, succeed, fail, and try again. Instead of just making a baking soda volcano then moving on to the next activity, they get opportunities to wonder, tinker, and make their own changes to see what happens.

The Girl Scout Activity Cycle

"Learning by Doing" emphasizes cycles of action and reflection. Here, we've adapted the inquiry science cycle to one that is easily used with Girl Scout activities.

  • Spark Introduce the activity to spark their interest and curiosity. Adults can lead an activity, or girls can suggest it and teach each other. They might make a simple paper rocket, plant seeds, or learn about hunger in their community.
  • Plan After girls have some experience with the skill or activity, they figure out what to do with it. They decide what they want to do and plan how they want to do it. Often, this is first phrased as a question (What if I use different soil for my seeds? How can we help the food bank?) and then the girls make a plan to answer that question.
  • Do Girls get busy! They carry out their plan and see what happens.
  • Reflect The girls share what they did and learned with others - maybe other girls and adults in the group, their families, or the community.

Getting Hands-On

This is the other part of "learning by doing." Girls get a chance to do it themselves - whether that's building a fire, mixing paint colors, or packaging food at a food bank.

Working Together

Cooperative learning involves girls learning from each other, and from those around them. They share ideas, challenges, and successes with each other, and together they learn more than they would alone.