The impact of inquiry-based science is supported by research demonstrating that one of the best ways to ensure the academic and career success of students in the long term is through an engaging, high–quality science education curriculum.

Middle and high school teachers report that students, in elementary schools, who participated in the inquiry–based science instruction have developed critical thinking skills, are more interested in, better prepared for, have a better understanding of science.

What does inquiry-based science look like?
Inquiry–based science is a “major tenet of the National Science Education Standards” (Science Scope, March 2000) and well–recognized as a proven approach for successfully advancing the quality of science instruction and improving student achievement in science, math, and literacy.

Unlike traditional textbook teaching, inquiry–based science provides students the opportunity to engage in a scientific question, participate in the design of a procedure, discuss evidence, formulate and connect their explanations to scientific knowledge, communicate and justify their explanations (Science and Children, October 2010). As a result, students are actively involved in their learning, working more cooperatively while developing higher–level thinking, analytical skills, problem solving, and a deeper understanding of fundamental scientific concepts and process skills. This approach is supported by a survey conducted by the Bayer Corporation that reported:

  • 61% of scientists say they first became interested in science before the age of 11
  • 72% of scientists say there was a significant positive factor – most often parent (25%) or teacher (17%) influencing their development of a childhood interest in science
  • During elementary school years, 71% of scientists say their science teachers played an important role in stimulating their interest in science
  • In designing an elementary school science program, 70% of scientists say they would include the following approaches: (1) encourage students to think critically, test assumptions, and question common opinion, (2) have the teacher act as a guide or mentor to students, (3) have students carry out science experiments and formulate their own results

Anecdotal evidence suggests that when students are taught science through an inquiry–based approach in elementary school student’s interest in science continues in middle school and high school. In fact, as a result of participating in inquiry-based science program in elementary school, staff from a local high school reported they added three new sections of Biology to meet the academic needs of the incoming freshman. In subsequent years, three new sections of Chemistry and three new sections of Physics were added to the high school schedule. There were no significant curriculum changes other than the introduction of inquiry–based curriculum and instruction (National Academy of Science, 2009).

Nuturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Educaiton for Grades K-8: National Academy of Sciences, 2009