Independent Inquiry Projects
By Mark Heintz
Oct 25, 2021

To say that the past two years have been a struggle for everyone is an understatement. Personally, I haven’t been the teacher that I know I could be. A few good friends have reminded me of a way to get back to that person, and here I am writing again. I needed it and thank you for that push.

A Moment of Reflection

Before I get back into regular posting, I find myself thinking about the first couple of months of the school year. Now that the first quarter is over; I’m happy with what the students have learned in the first part of the school. As I see teachers struggle, I wanted to share what I’ve done in hopes to help anyone who needs guidance in making changes themselves. 

For the first ten weeks of school, students led their own independent inquiry projects. To start this process, the students created an understanding of not only how they identify themselves but how society does, too. Then, the students asked questions about the issues they see in the world. After asking these questions, they singled in on one topic and researched to find answers to questions they developed.  Now, they are creating a way to display their understanding to an audience of their choosing.  

My approach resonates with the Reggio Emilia Approach, which

“is to reinforce each child’s sense of identity through a recognition that comes from peers and adults, so much so that each one would feel enough sense of belonging and self-confidence to participate in the activities of the school (68).”

I try to give the students as much autonomy as possible. To do this, I started with their own questions.

Honestly, it has been rejuvenating as a teacher to be working with the students on things that they are interested in as opposed to establishing a curriculum with hundreds of facts for all students to learn in a linear succession. This is not something I did overnight. I have been working towards this approach for the past few years. I’ve been writing for almost a decade and most of that process is on this site. 

Start Small

It was daunting at first to make changes, and if I could give any advice to someone starting on their journey, it would be to start small. Start with part of a period and record what worked and what didn’t. Reflect on it and try again. Ask students what they are curious about and then let them find the answers. As you reflect on it, you might be able to give more time to this and find how to do it more effectively and consistently.  


As always with these longer posts, thank you to Kim Miklusak for her editing and feedback along the way. This blog would not have happened without her friendship.



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