Inquiry more than a buzz word

A student said to me recently, what is inquiry? It got me thinking, have I been explicitly teaching inquiry, or is it just a ‘word’ teachers and educators use?

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At Wairakei Primary School we develop our inquiries for the term and the year around a central idea. This year it is taonga. A successful inquiry is taught across curriculum areas where students practice skills in a variety of ways. The model, Understand, Know, Do gives us a framework to develop learning activities and opportunities.


Integration is the key to a successful inquiry. The more opportunities across the school day that students have to talk, write, explore, create and recreate, the more they will learn about the inquiry. This is much more powerful than a half hour lesson two or three afternoons a week.

What We Did

Room 12 students enjoy building, writing, and creating. When planning classroom activities I included the concept of taonga in all areas of the curriculum. For example, we wrote about our taonga. (English Curriculum), we created a class waka and self portraits to showcase our differences and similarities. (The Arts curriculum), We used construction materials to create a whare and a photo frame. We reworked our initial ideas and made another prototype (Technology Curriculum). We worked with buddies, in small groups and on our own, developing social skills, building resilience, and coping with disappointment. (The Key Competencies).  We developed an understanding of Time (Mathematics). We worked with students from other classes during our PE rotations so the older students could mentor and support the younger students (tuakana teina). 

There was always an element of student choice as I wanted students to understand that it is ok to make mistakes and to try again. For example, I didn’t show them how to make the whare, merely provided a range of construction materials and stood back while they problem solved, or not, in some cases. We talked about what worked and what didn’t and why and why not. Students then had another opportunity to rework their whare learning from past attempts.

2024 Bowler

Gwen Bowler

Education has no beginning and no end. It ebbs and flows and is ever-changing. As an educator, it is my responsibility to instill a love of learning and an ability to adapt to an ever-changing world.

My teaching journey started at 40 when I retrained as a teacher after a career in journalism and many years as a stay-at-home mother. When we guide our students to be lifelong learners, we send them towards their next journey well-prepared for whatever life brings.

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