Editor's note:  Many thanks to the authors for submitting this manscript in HTML format.

 The Heron Network -- Changing the Ways Students Learn Science

Michael E. Beeth
The Ohio State University
Columbus, OH
Mark Wagler
Randall Elementary School
Madison, WI 

The desire for students to become scientifically literate is a value expressed by many adults in our society. Parents, teachers, science educators, and political leaders profess the importance of scientific literacy to individuals and the entire citizenry. Although there is no consensus on the meaning of scientific literacy, a person literate in science would know more than just the content of various disciplines such as biology, chemistry, physics, earth or environmental science. Along with the content knowledge in these disciplines, a person would understand that science is a process of inquiry. Included in the inquiry process would be knowledge regarding how scientists design and conduct investigations to understand the natural world, various ways that scientific arguments are justified, how scientific ideas have changed over time, the social contexts within which scientists conduct their investigations, and the implications of the knowledge produced by science on the larger society. A scientifically literate person would be expected to make individual and policy decisions from an informed position, one that is grounded on evaluating the best available information produced by the scientific community. A scientifically literate person might also be expected, on the other hand, to appreciate the elegance and beauty found in studying the natural world or in conducting scientific investigations to explain how the natural world works.

Establishing literacy through inquiry activities, or any other activities, depends on two major assumptions regarding the value of this undertaking. First, advances in scientific knowledge are essential to the national interests of the United States. Included in our national interests is the desire for the US to lead the production of new knowledge in areas such as medicine, technology, and the exploration of space. The future economic interests of the US are closely tied to application in the marketplace of new knowledge. Advances in food production, manufacturing, technology, and environmental monitoring and restoration are essential to the well-being of all individuals and contribute immensely to the quality of life experienced in the US. This goal of education can best occur if students have sound preparation in the sciences and abundant opportunities to participate in meaningful scientific inquiry.

Second, a scientifically literate citizenry would become increasingly involved in guiding the production and interpretation of new scientific knowledge. Scientifically literate citizens, through their individual and collective voices as voters, could potentially influence many aspects of scientific inquiry, from what questions are important to ask (e.g., Can medical researchers find a cure for the AIDS virus?) to levels of spending for basic and applied research to proposing policies that would facilitate access to the profession of science by groups traditionally under represented in this field.

Beneath the political rhetoric to enhance scientific literacy is a recognition that teachers, at all grade levels, can be a major means of modeling scientific literacy for learners. According to the Council's National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996, p. 52), science instruction needs to change from student acquisition of existing facts and information presented by teachers to an inquiry based curriculum focused on students' interests. A curriculum that involved students in processes associated with scientific study--such as designing original inquiry projects that addressed questions about the natural world, extending the amount of time students devoted to inquire into a topic, and modeling the curiosity, openness to new ideas and skepticism that characterize science (NRC, 1996, p. 37)--would represent a significant change in how students learn science.

How teachers might change their instructional practices to cause changes as those described above are not specified in the National Standards. If change is to occur, it can reasonably be expected to begin with an individual teacher or group of teachers who are motivated to reflect on what science content they want students to learn and how they want them to experience this content. How well their students do or do not learn, how they assess student learning, and reasonable methods for delivering this instruction are essential questions teachers need to ask themselves. Other changes, in professional development opportunities that support change in teacher's practices, the preparation of new teachers for the field, and systemic reform efforts, might be initiated from outside a single school system (although teachers would certainly be involved in each of these).

The purpose of this article is to describe the Heron Network, an ongoing professional development project for elementary school teachers in Madison, Wisconsin, and how one teacher in that network changed the ways his students experience science. His knowledge of scientific inquiry and how he translated that view into instruction is described below.

Among the many issues related to scientific literacy described above, this teacher intended to include the use of student inquiry as the basis for organizing his instruction. The instruction he presented to fourth and fifth grade elementary school students helped them develop communities of science learners, similar to the communities of scientists he experienced as a part of his professional development in science. Engaging in authentic scientific inquiry is not a trivial task for scientists or for students. Accomplishing this task in an elementary school classroom would require that the teacher allow learners to experience multiple aspects of science first hand rather than read about information produced by the adult professional scientific community. A brief description of the Heron Network is presented below, followed by some recommendations for initiating student inquiry with students. Examples of inquiry projects produced by these elementary school students and their reactions to learning science in this manner are also presented to validate the impacts of this instruction on their learning.

The Heron Network grew out of innovative teaching practices in several classrooms in Madison, Wisconsin, and was later supported by professional development activities funded by federal, state, and local agencies. Participants in Heron Network activities were typical elementary school teachers recruited to evening and summer workshops. Most of the participants had little formal preparation in science content, although all were currently including science in their teaching. The initial goal of the Heron Network was to involve students and teachers in the investigation of a local watershed. Acting as scientists, the students and their teachers would explore everything that a colony of Great Blue Herons needed to flourish, including topics such as food chains, habitats, and water quality. A long term goal of this project was that students and teachers would be able to make informed decisions about management of this local watershed. Learning about the natural world of real Herons and the cultural environment that humans shared with these birds was, for these teachers, an application of many principles associated with scientific literacy. Learning science first hand would allow the students to participate in scientific inquiry and to make sound decisions regarding watershed management based on the knowledge they gained during their studies.

The history of "I Wonder" and the Heron Network

One teacher now participating in the Heron Network, Mark Wagler, began to wonder if he could help students engage in science inquiry projects. Returning to classroom teaching in 1987 after years of professional work as a storyteller and community activist, he was confident of his ability to create an inquiry-based curriculum in the Language Arts and Social Studies. Lacking similar experience and expertise in science (like most elementary teachers, Mark had little preparation in science at the undergraduate level), he began by modeling his teaching efforts on what he observed of professional scientists:

We might observe scientists: asking unanswered questions; setting up procedures, some traditional, others unique; carefully collecting lots of data; drawing conclusions for observed patterns in the data; publishing results in journals or presenting it at conferences; reading scientific journals, attending conferences; constantly revising their own view of nature, based not only on their own research, but on what they have read and heard from others; organizing themselves socially, economically, politically (labs, societies, jobs, grants, services, purchases, etc.) Now we can begin structuring similar activities for children (Wagler, 1992, p. 56).
The key, he thought, for linking the practice of student and professional scientists was the sense of wonder that scientists have every day as they conduct authentic inquiry. By "wonder" he referred not only to curiosity and doubt, but also to the delightful contemplation of the mysteries of nature. Such wonder, he concluded, "can not be taught: an infant already has it. However, it can be untaught. Teach a child to consume science only instead of creating it, and she will lose the wonder she once had (Wagler, 1992, p. 56). What he realized about his own science instruction was that the sense of wonder students brought to school was being untaught through traditional teaching methods that are didactic and involve students in few or no opportunities to create science. He concluded that his instruction needed to change to foster the innate curiosity of students who were already engaged in exploring the natural world.

For a handful of years, Mark included a unit on inquiry science in his curriculum. This unit always began with an exercise in which students wrote twenty sentences beginning with "I wonder ..." Although students usually were delighted to work on their independent projects, the unit was extremely exhausting for their teacher. "I've almost given up many times on this naive idea that all students can be scientists. For five years I have struggled trying to make it happen. Everybody becomes needy at once during science time....Without external support, few teachers will be able to help twenty-five students work independently on difficult projects. It's not our fault that we don't know how (Wagler, 1992, p. 56)."

In the fall of 1991, he changed his curriculum even more drastically so that student investigations became more than a two-month unit--the "I Wonder" projects became the core of his year-long science curriculum. As the quality of student inquiry improved, it seemed logical to support students in moving up still another level--to publishing research results in a peer journal. His class sent out a call for papers to all elementary school classrooms in Madison. In the spring of 1992, students from four schools published their inquiry projects in I Wonder: The Journal for Elementary School Scientists.

The following summer, with a Research Fellowship from the American Society for Cell Biology, Mark did full-time research on stomatal patterning in Tradescantia at a botany lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the fall he worked with science educators at UW-Madison and Edgewood College in developing a grant for training teachers in inquiry science which led to forming the Heron Network and creating the 2-week Heron Institute, where teachers do original science research focused on learning about a local watershed.

The Heron Network has grown to twenty K-6 teachers in several school districts, a math journal, exhibits created in collaboration with the Madison Children's Museum, a web site, a student inquiry journal including all areas of the curriculum, a garden project, and annual student conferences. The Heron Network has created a collaborative context where science inquiry is embedded in integrated explorations into all aspects of experience and knowledge. Many of the 1996 and all of the 1997 Heron Network projects are available on-line in a combined journal tiled Great Blue.

Deciding what science is, and then how to teach it

Mark's experiences in the Heron Network and as a Research Fellow led him to change the way he though students should experience science. He, with other teachers in the Heron Network, began to structure learning activities for students that were similar to the activities of scientists. Students and teachers designed and conducted original science inquiry on one or more topics for an entire school year. They collected, displayed, and analyzed data from their investigations. Students and their teachers met in regular lab meetings to update the entire class on what had been learned and how this new knowledge was changing the way they thought about conducting their inquiry. At the end of the year, students wrote about their science investigations.

An inquiry approach in the classroom gives students an opportunity to construct their own knowledge. The process of writing and publishing the accounts of what the children learned serves several purposes. First, producing a coherent account of a complex process forces the writer to think reflectively and view their own knowledge in a new way. Second, the group of contributing students creates an interested and literate audience for each other. Children respond to each other's work at different times during their investigations, through proposals, class visits, and mid-year conventions. Third, the journals have become a useful text in which children can critique or replicate investigations that interest them or create new directions inspired by earlier works (Wagler, 1996 b).

Although many Heron Network teachers had little science content in their backgrounds, they were exceptionally well trained in helping students communicate their thoughts orally and in writing. Mark's background, for example, included expertise as a storyteller and writer. He was confident he could help students tell their stories about the inquiry projects they had conducted. However, like other Heron Network teachers, he was unsure about assessing how well his students learned processes of science. In spite of this uncertainty, Mark and the teachers in the Heron Network decided to try teaching science as inquiry, the way they had experienced it when researching watersheds at the Heron Institute.

Although directions for creating classroom environments like those developed by Heron Network teachers do not exist, Mark offers the following suggestions to teachers thinking about beginning to teach inquiry:

l. Reading for vision: At the beginning of the school year, have students read parts of Great Blue (a new integrated inquiry journal that includes an "I Wonder" section") to expand their imagination of what they are capable of doing. Better than anything I say, or any activities I create, previous student work creates the boundaries of our imagination of what is possible in our classroom.

2. Reading for questions: Given an assignment to structure their own inquiry, a minority of students will readily formulate their own questions. The rest might skim through Great Blue, and past issues of I Wonder and It Figures! looking for ideas that bring their curiosity to consciousness or for projects than can be replicated.

3. Reading for inquiry structures: Once they have begun their projects, it is not uncommon for students to return to the journals to clarify their procedures and discover models for interpreting or presenting data.

4. Reading for writing forms: As their investigations move into their final phase, presentation, students return to the journals to discover forms for presenting written accounts of what they did. What should be included in the Introduction? How does one punctuate dialogue? How can charts and other figures contribute to their reports?

5. Writing for communication: Aiming to publish, on our Web site and possibly in Great Blue, forces the writer to think reflectively and view their own knowledge in a new way. What needs to be said to a literate and interested audience? Many times students don't fully understand what they have been doing until they edit their own articles-at that point they are often eager to collect a little more data, make graphs that clarify the data, and reexamine their assumptions. Publishing lifts research from the school mode into authentic contexts.

6. Writing for self-esteem: Every effective teacher, of every political persuasion, whatever words they use, tells stories about students who broke through to new levels of achievement after they successfully presented their work. The efforts of students need to be acknowledged. When hard work is completed, completion must be appreciated. A grade has far less impact than publishing in a journal with a circulation of 1000 or on the Internet!! (Wagler, 1996 a)

Inquiry projects published in I Wonder

The first volume of I Wonder, published in 1992, consisted of 16 articles written by 32 authors (see Table 1). Students from several classrooms of Heron Network teachers contributed written reports of their inquiry projects to the editors (i.e., teachers) of I Wonder. Teachers worked with every student who submitted an article, helping each to clearly describe questions, procedures, data, and analysis. Titles of I Wonder articles in the first volume included: "How Different Amounts of Salt Affect Experimental Bean Growth", "Lake Micro-organisms [sic] and Road Salt", and "Making a Pulley System Down to the Office." The publication of the first I Wonder journal was as much a celebration of participating in science as it was a showcase of what students learned about studying the natural world. These students not only did year long inquiry science projects, they published the results of their projects in ways that were similar to those experienced by scientists. Copies of the first I Wonder journals were distributed to the authors after they gave oral summaries of their projects in a format similar to that used by adult scientists.

The following year, 1993, I Wonder swelled to 64 articles written by 89 authors in 143 pages (see Table 1). Titles of inquiry projects in the second volume of I Wonder included: "Effects of a Tornado on Its Victims", "Observing Mold on Bread", "How Beans Grow", and "Making a Pulley System Down to the Office." The Pulley Project, as it was known, represents several significant points about science as these students were experiencing it. First, the question about building a pulley system to the office was of considerable interest to the students--a pulley system could carry the attendance card to the office and back, saving them some time and effort. Second, each year students read the I Wonder articles of previous student's attempting to build the pulley system. Articles in the I Wonder journals helped each new group of students refine the questions of interest and change the methods used in their next inquiry project. The first group of students who attempted the Pulley Project investigated the physical capabilities of string and pulleys, measured the distance to the office, assembled all necessary materials, and built a system that was, more of less, functional.

The second group of scientists, however, found that they wanted to know about the mechanical advantages of different kinds of pulleys before they built the entire system. These students knew that the first group had built a functioning system, however, what they really wanted to know was how to make a better pulley system. Use of I Wonder journals to inform and extend new inquiry projects was an important technique teachers used to help students reflect on past research and begin their own projects. In the years that followed, many students reviewed previous students' projects and attempted to confirm the results reported in earlier projects or modify procedures when asking question about the same phenomenon. The production and use of journals by these students parallels how professional scientists use scientific literature to inform their work.

Table 1

Number of Sections, Articles, Authors, and Pages in I Wonder by year

89 (partially on-line)
56 (on-line)
^Data for this year extracted from Great Blue.

Students reflect on learning science

In 1993, students were asked to comment on how designing and conducting science investigations changed their views of science. The students' comments below (taken from I Wonder, Volume 2) indicate their ability to reflect on what it means to do science.

To start out with, a good experiment needs a thoughtful and challenging question. If your question is for example, how much does Sparky the mouse weigh you can answer that in one minute. But if you think carefully of a question that you are truly interested in, then most likely you will have a good experiment. . . . You have to pick a project you know will last for awhile. One long project is much more fun than ten short projects. (Cassie Wagler, p. 143).

I do not think when you start an experiment or observation you have to have a hypothesis. So in my mind, there are two types of experiments and observations. On is the kind that is built around the hypothesis and the other is just sort of played by ear. (Persia Davis, p. 140).

What makes a good observation is to be really tuned into what you are doing. First, you must form an idea. Once you have it you should gather facts. If you have not already [gathered facts], then go out and observe and write down everything that you see. Once you have got all the information possible, you do it again as many times needed to make sure that you cannot be proven wrong. What makes a good observation is you must really want to do it. (Zac Ginsberg, p. 140).

I have been learning a lot about grass, how it grows, when it needs to grow, etc. I put the chart of data on grass into bar graphs. This made me look at the data I had in a different way. I have learned a lot from the various graphs about how much each plant grew. (Leah Schutz, p. 142).

The students above commented on issues such as the need to be good observers, that the natural world could be studied in multiple ways, that the results of scientific inquiry needed to be communicated to others, and that good science questions often require sustained effort and a long period of study before you can really understand your topic. These impressions of scientific activity are consistent with many aspects of the view of science expressed in the National Science Standards.

Student inquiry in subjects other than science

Table 1 shows a steady increase in the number of articles published and authors contributing to I Wonder. Over time, the inquiry based curriculum taught by teachers in the Heron Network evolved to include more than just science. Following publication of the I Wonder journal in 1993, Heron Network teachers and their students published a second journal--It Figures!: The Journal for Elementary School Mathematicians. It Figures!, and the instructional activities that led to it, were similar to those used in producing I Wonder. Yearly data for the number of sections, articles, authors, and pages in It Figures! are presented in Table 2. These data, unlike the data for I Wonder, are rather stable. One explanation for this may be that articles submitted to It Figures! used objects in the natural world as the context for studying mathematics. This is to say that many articles submitted to I Wonder involved collecting, organizing, analyzing, and summarizing data. It was considered an encouraging sign by the teachers that students were blurring the distinctions among science and mathematics. Also, as the number of students and teachers submitting articles to the journals grew, teachers needed to encourage the use of electronic communications. Students not only published the results of their inquiry projects on the Internet, they began to request comments through the Internet at many stages throughout their projects.

Fluctuations in the number of articles, authors, and pages for a specific journal can be explained by the introduction of additional inquiry journals, allowing students more outlets for their work. Overall, there is dramatic growth in the total number of articles published and authors contributing to these journals. Eventually, a pragmatic decision needed to be made by the teachers to limit the number of contributions to I Wonder. This decision was necessary because the number of students who submitted articles to the journal exceeded the school's financial ability to produce it in a paper format. The solution to this problem was to use computer technologies to disseminate student's work over the Internet. The Heron Network had established a home page on the World Wide Web in June of 1995. Along with the I Wonder and It Figures! journals, the home page displayed links to Kid-to-Kid, students' inquiry about cultural and their experiences, Critics and Fanatics, students' reviews of books and media, and The Gallery, imaginative writing and visual arts generated by students. Table 3 contains Internet links to each of these web sites.

Maintaining the idea that learning needed to focus on student inquiry, the curriculum evolved to include students' investigations into mathematics, reading and media literacy, cultural relationships and experiences, and artistic modes of expression. Links to information about some individual classrooms involved in the Heron Project can also be accessed though these sites. For example, Grade Five at Country View School (1996) was interested in studying shadows and asked that people from around the world send specific data about shadows at their locations to them by e-mail. After the students at Country View School had collected all the data, they would analyze the information and write back with their results. Some students are now creating individual web pages that link directly to the articles they have written for I Wonder and other journals.

Starting in 1997, all student inquiry journals are published exclusively in an electronic format known as Great Blue. Thematic topics such as equity, joint student and teacher inquiry, mastery of content, studying local natural and cultural communities, networking locally and globally, and community action and service are now beginning to enter the curriculum. The curriculum presented by teachers in the Heron Network classrooms today is, above all else, an eclectic, pragmatic, and integrated view of learning in which students have a great deal of control over what they choose to study.

Table 2

Number of Sections, Articles, Authors, and Pages in It Figures! by year

23(partially on-line)
24 (on-line)
^Data for this year extracted from Great Blue.

Table 3

Internet links to:

Critics and Fanatics
The Gallery

Great Blue takes flight

Articles containing student inquiry projects (i.e., in science, mathematics, reading and media literacy, and culture) and artistic creations are now combined into one volume titled Great Blue: A Journal of Student Inquiry. Great Blue is divided into sections for I Wonder, It Figures!, Kid-to-Kid, Critics and Fanatics, and The Gallery. Starting in 1997, Great Blue is also published in an on-line version. The number of students who have published articles in one or more of the sections of Great Blue is quite impressive as illustrated in Table 4.

Table 4

Number of Sections, Articles, Authors, and Pages in Great Blue by year
The five sections in Great Blue cover all areas of the curriculum traditionally taught in elementary schools. Reading from Great Blue, writing articles for Great Blue, investigating questions about the natural world and interacting with the social and mathematical worlds of students is central to this curriculum. However, none of the activities students participate in is presented as a single subject in the traditional sense--just as none of the students' articles is limited exclusively to mathematics or science. It is common to find students writing about science, mathematics, and culture all in one article. For example, Woodie Onkendi C. Mogaka studied the frequency with which African-Americans were mentioned in science books for his I Wonder project (Mogaka, 1995). In part of his report Woodie wrote:

Why are Blacks, from Imhotep to Dr. Cowlings Johnson, not found in science books for kids or even in science books for adults? I think about this question a lot and wonder what does this say about me? Is it not OK for Black people to be recognized for their contributions? What if I read the books in my school and I thought no Black person had ever been a scientist? I might feel like I could not be one either. . . . Maybe someday I will read about an African American scientist from my [class]room. Maybe I will be the scientist or maybe I will write the book (pp. 42-43).
In his study, Woodie found that African-Americans were seldom mentioned in science books even though several he was familiar with had made significant contributions to their fields (e.g., an unidentified Ugandan medical doctor, Imhotep, Madam C. J. Walker, and Dr. Cowlings Johnson). His insights regarding the implications of omitting the contributions of blacks to science on what he might think he could do in the future are profound.

Back to the rookery

Teachers in the Heron Network met monthly to discuss the successes and frustrations they experienced while changing their instruction to inquiry science. During these conversations teachers participating in the Heron Network began to envision communication between themselves and their classroom habitats much like the communication that occurs when real Herons fly from one wetland to the next. Both teachers and students worked together to create a curriculum and classroom habitat as complex and integrated as the environments in which real Herons lived. To create their classroom habitats, the teachers needed to connect with many of the local experts and resources in their community. Participants in the Heron Network worked with teachers at all levels, kindergarten through university, who shared many of the same interests in inquiry and community based instruction. Although the Heron Network was teacher initiated, it depends on considerable support from agencies such as local school support staffs, education and science programs at nearby colleges and universities, the state Departments of Public Instruction and Natural Resources, and a local Children's Museum.

In the first years of publishing journals, Heron Network teachers solicited articles from their colleagues. Now they encourage other teachers who share a similar vision to submit their students' inquiry projects to the Heron Network or to establish their own networks. In the Afterword to the first volume of Great Blue Mark Wagler (1996 a) wrote:

Think of our electronic journals as our major publication, all completed work of all students in our network, and of Great Blue as a selection of materials chosen primarily to facilitate our teaching in the coming school years. We won't always chose the best articles. Sometimes we print things because of what's missing-lots of data but little analysis, great illustrations not placed in context, unanswered questions that will challenge lots of students. These less than perfect articles will encourage our students to learn from other students. Sometimes it's important to honor a student for incredible effort (only you can tell the rest of us if a piece meets this criteria). Also, we'll want to provide balance among contents and skills and classrooms, explore new directions, highlight model projects and products, and create a work of beauty (p. 180).

The National Science Education Standards call for changing the way teachers present science to their students. The instruction of Heron Network teachers changed to address many, but not all, of the standards that relate to developing scientific literacy. First among these changes, teachers in the Heron Network changed their instruction to be inquiry based--not just in science instruction but in all of their curriculum. Second, these teachers developed instructional practices that enabled students to experience science in ways that are similar to those in the scientific community. Third, students in Heron Network classrooms formed communities of learners that are as integrated and complex as the natural setting of the local watershed. Individuals and small groups investigated topics of interest to them while the entire class came together regularly for lab meetings to discuss the current finding and future directions for each inquiry project. Journals, conferences, exhibits, email, and web sites extended the classrooms into a larger community of inquiry. Finally, the ability of these students to learn science content while at the same time learning what it means to do science is well illustrated in the words of individual students.

There are many National Science Standards that Mark and other Heron Network teachers did not address during instruction, and we have not addressed directly in this article. The depth of science content knowledge represented in individual I Wonder articles, for example, needs to be explored as does the breadth of knowledge contained in the students' writing. Long term effects of this instruction on students after they leave Heron Network classrooms also needs to be explored. The role of external agents in supporting the efforts of Heron Network teachers to change their practices also deserves additional attention. Included among the issues here would be the kind of administrative patterns that permitted, or at least did not prohibit, the efforts of these teachers to change their instruction. Finally, the implications of the Heron Network as a model that other teachers might implement or that might serve as a model for systemic reform efforts remains to be seen. We think it is, at the very least, a valuable model.

Some final thoughts

Science education at all levels must change to address not only the knowledge that the scientific enterprise has produced but how students come to participate in that process. We encourage you to verify our beliefs that both of these have changed for students in Heron Network classrooms by connecting to the Heron Network web page and reading more of the actual words of these students. Common beliefs expressed among the instruction of Heron Network teachers and the National Science Education Standards are the notions that students can become scientifically literate when their interests are taken into consideration and when they participate in activities similar to those of adult scientists. A significant but unanticipated outcome of the inquiry approach used by Heron Network teachers was that students seemed to integrate their knowledge of science with their knowledge of other disciplines such as mathematics and the social studies. We feel that the words of these students illustrate an often sought but seldom obtained change in the attitudes students have about themselves as learners and the integration of knowledge from a variety of contexts.

We believe that students in Heron Network classrooms see themselves as producers of scientific knowledge, rather than as disconnected with and distanced from the activities of scientists. If students understand how inquiry is conducted within the scientific community, they are in a much better position to evaluate the implications of scientific information on themselves and for their communities. The default option is that students continue to memorize endless bits of disconnected information, never to participate in the wonder or recognize the elegance of Western scientific thought. Although additional studies are needed to document the impacts of this instruction on students' future learning, it can be said with a substantial degree of confidence that the instruction these students received matched many of the goals for science learning set out in the National Science Standards. What is more important, the experiences the students received as a result of changes in the teachers instruction allowed them to participate in the wonder of doing science.


Country View School. (1996). International shadows. Great Blue: A Journal of Student Inquiry, 1, 169-171.

Heron Network. (1997). Great Blue: A Journal of Student Inquiry, 1. Available on-line: http://danenet.wicip.org/heron/greatblue/greatblue.html.

Jenks, D., Wiesner, R., & Wirth, D. (Eds.). (1995, May). I Wonder: The Journal for Elementary School Scientists, 4.

Mogaka, W. O. C. (1995). African American scientists: Are they cited (mentioned) in science books? I Wonder: The Journal of Elementary School Scientists, 4, 39-44.

National Research Council. (1996). National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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About the authors...

Michael E. Beeth completed his undergraduate studies in biology and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Steven Point.  Following the completion of his undergraduate degree he taught high school science courses in biology, chemistry, and general science for ten years in Illinois and Wisconsin.  During his tenure as a high school science teacher he completed a Master's of Science degree in secondary education at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and attended numerous professional development opportunities focused on learning and teaching genetics.  In 1993, he completed his doctoral studies in Curriculum and Instruction (Science Education) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Michael is currently an Assistant Professor (Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education) at The Ohio State University.  He teachers science methods courses for pre-service and inservice elementary and middle level teachers.

Mark Wagler, a 4/5 teacher at Randall School in Madison, received a Presidential Award in 1996 for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.  In 1992 he did full time research on stomatal patterning in Tradescantia as a Summer Research Fellow of the American Society for Cell Biology.  A former Woodrow Wilson Fellow, Wagler studied the history of science at the University of Chicago and European Cultural History at the Universität Bern.  Wagler is a founder or co-founder of I Wonder: The Journal for Elementary School Scientists, It Figures!: The Journal for Elementary School Mathematicians, Great Blue: A Journal of Student Inquiry, the Heron Institute, and the Heron Network.  His entire science curriculum is a braid of overlapping processes, skills, assignments, events, and networks that support "I Wonder" inquiry; intricately integrated with every other aspect of the curriculum; and thoroughly connected to real-world problem solving.  His first goal is for students to know themselves as scientists; the second is for students to contemplate with delight the beauty, complexity, and mystery of nature.  He expects students to verbalize their questions, create research structures, record extensive data, discover patterns, write up results, communicate investigations, and critique the research of other student scientists.  His students discover the two faces of wonder--curiosity and doubt meeting surprise and rapt attention.

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