King Edward Public School Waterloo Region District School Board


The Tea Pot Inquiry

At King Edward Public School a K-8 school, inquiry-based learning is a necessity. Ninety percent of the students live at or below the poverty line. Mental health challenges, learning issues, absenteeism, and behavior problems are the norm throughout the school, and differentiation to support the needs of all students is an absolute must. One way that we have been able to reverse that trend and to meet the needs of our students is through inquiry-based learning. Our Grade 6 students who have typically had multiple behavior issues resulting in progressive discipline and suspensions are empowered by one simple tea pot that is driving their learning. The class received the tea pot from another school, and their mission is to send it to a school in Thailand. The tea pot is to travel in one box that will have artifacts and information that will share and represent who they are as Canadians. Not only are the students interested in learning and producing information in Social Studies for the tea pot, but also the teacher has posed a wicked math problem to the class. The students in small groups must create the packaging for the tea pot to safely and economically travel to Thailand. Over the course of a month, the students are creating geometric models for the box; calculating surface area, mass, and volume; and critically thinking about the best box design that will be chosen from the models the groups are building. From one simple tea pot, the students are reading and researching about Thailand, creating electronic files to send with the tea pot, thinking and writing about who they are as Canadians, and, in fact, calculating lots of math! Each day, the students in this Grade 6 class can’t wait to get to school and get into class. Inquiry-based learning has created an authentic audience and a real-life, meaningful purpose for students to share their learning. The teacher ensures that there are multiple entry points for any learner to make a contribution to any component of the project. Behavior issues do not exist and during any visit, students are actively participating and sharing their voices through the work they do as they prepare to send one simple tea pot to students in Thailand. “Tea is instant wisdom—just add water,” says Astrid Alauda. Similarly, inquiry-based learning is instant student empowerment—just add authentic learning that is connected to the lives and interests of students.

Lee Anne Andriessen, Principal, King Edward Public School, Waterloo Region District School Board, Ontario, Canada; personal communication, April 10, 2015 Written for “Leading Collaborative Learning: Empowering Excellence”, Corwin, 2016