Inquiry-Based (God) Learning

Perhaps contrary to our personal experiences with students, they actually want to learn and have burning questions about the world around them. Not all of them are appropriate for school, nor do they often come at appropriate times (if you’ve ever taught in a middle school you know exactly what I’m talking about). Yet, all too often we, as teachers, don’t take advantage of this innate curiosity. It isn’t entirely all our fault though, we have standards to teach; a curriculum to follow handed to us from our department or school. And if I’m being honest, it can be really hard to develop student-led learning activities. (Fun fact: Yesterday I tried to implement a scavenger hunt for my students to learn how to navigate. It did not go well. Back to the drawing board).

The deck can potentially be stacked against us before we even begin. However, when we create or more specifically, let students create their own learning opportunities we can see a great buy-in to the material that textbooks and Powerpoint slides can never replicate. Social Studies (along with science) are so primed for students to create their own questions. It can work with almost any subject in social studies. The scenarios and counterfactuals that our long, sordid, complex history of humanity contain are almost endless. Perhaps your class is very interested in the Romans and their conquest. Students can develop questions for their success, their eventual failure or what other empires could’ve done to defend themselves.

Perhaps the American Revolution has them enamored. Naturally, they are going to have questions about why the founding fathers made the choices they did. Our students may wonder how they would react if they were creating a constitution? What factors or issues would they value or find most important? How would they govern? This semi-guided example is just one of many that any US history teacher could implement.

A truly open-ended inquiry is also possible but a little more difficult. Problems and scenarios exist for this to thrive (in the right classroom) as well though. A world history or global studies class can allow it’s students to examine a conflict or disagreement between countries and start problem-solving. This could be something long-standing and a little controversial (Israel-Palestine) or long resolved (Russia-Japan). They can also look to the future and predict what issues they might encounter when they are adults. What will countries look like? Borders? The economy? These are all problems that directly or will directly affect them. And if it directly impacts them, there is a higher likelihood that they will not only care about the issue but actively work towards solving them.

Below is my Wonder Day Question project in full but first my TL;DR version.

I love space. If I could somehow cryogenically freeze myself so that I could live 500 years into the future and see (hopefully) fully developed space travel, I don’t think I couldn’t choose that. That’s how much I love the idea of traveling in space. Imagining what could be out there and what awaits us as a species is humbling and awesome. And I mean awesome in the way where it leaves you in awe. Stunned at the sheer magnitude of what you are witnessing.

Alas, I will never know that feeling. While that undoubtedly bums me out, it also means that I must support the small stepping stones to eventually reach that point. Sure there are some interesting colonialism ties to my field of teaching and exploration is a large part of social studies but the science-y parts are what really motivate and propel my interest in space. There is always something to wonder about our universe. What is Dark Matter and Energy? Can we ever travel at FTL speeds? Could we ever make a warm hole? Will we ever find non-human intelligent life forms? And if so, could we ever possibly hope to communicate with them? Or would it be like us trying to communicate with a fish? (can human beings and fish co-exist peacefully!?)

Needless to say, there will never be questions about the universe that don’t need answering and until I turn back into the space dust I once was. It will endlessly fascinate me.

analysis blackboard board bubble
Photo by Pixabay on

Wonder Day Question:


I wonder how long it will be until there is a manned mission to Mars?

-What systems and/or technology need to be in place for a mission to take place?

-How feasible is the mission?

-What are the risks involved with such an undertaking?

-What is there to be gained from traveling to Mars?




Finding information about humanity’s latest and next big step in space exploration is easy and plentiful, which is great if you’re a big space fan like me. However, as with all things dealing with science, there is an abundant amount of inaccurate or misleading information.


Answering the overall question is a somewhat known quantity because technology will always improve and given enough time, humanity will solve the big problems with prolonged space travel and perhaps even colonization of other planets and moons. But to find out if it can happen in my lifetime is the more pressing question.


-What systems and/or technology need to be in place for a mission to take place?

According to NASA’s website, they’ve been developing a new Space Launch System (SLS) and new spacecraft named Orion for “deep space exploration”. Along with a Solar Electric Propulsion system to transport needed to transport cargo to Mars for manned missions. (Daines, 2017)


-What are the risks involved with such an undertaking?

There are numerous dangers involved in space travel for humans. Turns out, space is very inhospitable to life. Aside from the ever present risk of death from exposure to the cold vacuum of space. Astronauts will have to deal with the harsh environment of Mars with large sandstorms and little atmosphere to block harmful radiation. Long term space travel also affects the body of astronauts as the gravity or lack thereof has adverse effects on bone density, metabolic rates, and cardiovascular systems. (Whiting, 2018)


-How feasible is the mission?

Cost is a massive issue that is currently holding up major progress in launching a manned mission. NASA’s budget has remained “essentially flat for the past decade”. (Whitwam, 2017)


The private sector has picked up some of the slack but launching rockets into space is a costly and difficult endeavor. SpaceX has had success with Falcon 9 reusable rockets tests on Earth but landing on Mars is much more difficult with its lack of atmosphere and extreme weather. (Whitwam 2017)


-What is there to be gained from traveling to Mars?

The knowledge alone of our celestial neighbors would be reward enough to many but the sheer access to resources and development of new, better technologies should be enough to entice most people. The sheer amount of technological innovations that have improved daily life and were founded due to NASA programs is vast. From LED lights to improved tires and fire-resistant materials, the technological impact has been extraordinary. (Spinoff, 2018)


Sources Cited:


Daines, G. (2017, August 6). NASA’s Journey to Mars.

Retrieved from


Whiting, M., Abadie, L. (2018, September 10). 5 Hazards of Human Spaceflight

Retrieved from


Whitwam, R. (2017, July, 17) NASA Now Says Unmanned Mars Mission in 2030s Is Unlikely.

Retrieved from


NASA Technologies Benefit Our Lives. (2008. Para 1, 7, 10)

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