Global science inquiry’s benefits for students

When students interact using the 4 Cs, their global awareness increases

global-scienceCommunication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity (the 4 Cs), the cornerstones of 21st century learning, are and have been the buzzwords circling the educational community. These skills and how they transfer to the classroom are at the heart of Paradise Valley Unified District’s (PVUSD) COMPASS goals.

Put this together with the banner emblazoned in the lobby of the district’s central office–“Cultivating World-Class Thinkers”–and the digital age in which we live, and there is a powerful case for promoting global science inquiry.

Global science inquiry embeds the 4 Cs into both the process and product. Along the way, students and teachers engage in authentic inquiry while leveraging technology to communicate and collaborate not only within the classroom with their own peers, on a global level with international partners.

(Next page: Where to start?)

Organized sites such as the World Moon Project and the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education are great places to start. These projects provide a timeline as well as a place for data and observations to be shared and discussed. For example, with the World Moon Project, students from all over the world record observations about the moon locally, and then share this data with international partners. This leads to inquiry as students identify and analyze the data for patterns and attempt to form conclusions.

Taking global science inquiry a step further, students across the world can use videoconferencing as a tool to create and design bridges, Mars rovers, or skyscrapers in collaborative teams. Imagine the possibilities with students from Arizona paired with students from China, for example, creating the next instrument or spacesuit to go to Mars, all while teleconferencing with NASA experts in Devon Island, who are preparing for future Mars missions. This type of global collaboration leads to innovation in scientific thinking and engineering design as students hypothesize and create solutions and formulate theories in partnership with others.

International collaboration has the potential to transform the classroom as we know it. It suddenly opens the doors to possibilities beyond what anyone could imagine. New perspectives, opinions, data, and observations gleaned firsthand from a classroom across the world can help to shape and form our students’ thinking and mindsets. It has the potential to change their—and–our way of understanding cultures and people around the world, preparing us all to live and share our planet and resources.

Collaboration and communication is people-centered and technology has enabled us to pursue this type of global educational partnership like never before. With Cisco Telepresence units in classrooms across the district and free Jabber accounts widely available, virtual collaboration, mentorship, and research make even the farthest reaches of the earth accessible to the PVUSD community of learners. Our district is well-poised to fulfill its mission of “cultivating world-class thinkers” in the digital age.

Janice Mak is a teacher at Fireside Elementary School in PVUSD. She goes on global adventures with her third and fourth grade students thanks to the technology and training made available to her through the district. Currently working on her doctorate in science education with a global emphasis, she also has great interest in motivating and engaging her students within the classroom in STEM-related initiatives. She can be reached by eMail at or via her blog.

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