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Dooley Elementary School Students
Host 'Kids' Inquiry Conference'

June 7, 2010

On June 2, Dooley Elementary School held its first Kids' Inquiry Conference (KIC), the culmination of a vision birthed at Dooley four years ago to increase student critical thinking and personalize education through student academic data collection and targeted/differentiated instruction.

Dooley KIC science lab welcome

Professor Wonder, Dr. Imagination (aka: Chris Martin and Zach Mitchell) and Principal Susan Loomis welcomed students to the KIC science conference.

Part of the vision included opening a science lab at Dooley. On June 2, that original science lab blossomed into a student-led conference, which facilitated 21st century learning through student project investigation, collaboration, problem solving, gathering of research and data, hands-on and student-generated experiments, use of technology and presentations of collected research and data in a seminar style.

According to Principal Susan Loomis, Plano ISD Curriculum Specialist Mary Swinton shared the KIC concept with Dooley Science Fair Coordinator Carla Carter, fifth grade team leader. Susan remarked, "When Carla discussed KIC with me, I became excited because it clearly supported our campus vision of increasing critical thinking, authentic student engagement in learning, and personalizing education for students.

Dooley KIC science lab welcome

Fifth grade students Micah Cox, Brian Dinn and Colin Chan are pictured with moderator Minoo Wille taking audience questions during their workshop "Hydro Blasters: Which type of soil will hold up the building the best?"

Principal Loomis compiled a team which included fifth grade teachers Carla Carter, Stephanie Maeder and Zach Mitchell; science/math specialist Chris Martin and Maureen Yervasi, assistant principal. In January, they visited Melissa ISD which has been utilizing KIC in their schools for several years.

Dooley teachersFifth grade teachers Carla Carter, Zach Mitchell and Stephanie Maeder guided students and orchestrated the day's events.

"Equipped with the many ideas from both Melissa and the book, 'Beyond the Science Fair: Creating a Kids' Inquiry Conference,' we began to meet on a regular basis with our KIC team to plan the steps of implementing KIC at Dooley," explained Susan. "We added our PACE Specialist Joyce Lin to the team and met with our PTA board to keep them involved in the building of our science program and the deepening of critical thinking."

About the Kids' Inquiry Conference

KIC presenting studentsStudents Jalyssa Garza, Sophia Bell and Amouree Morrison prepared for their session "The Bigger the Better: Does the size of a battery affect the strength of a circuit?" while PACE Teacher Joyce Lin looked on.

The full-day conference included two sets of breakout sessions presented by the fifth grade teachers and students - one for fourth graders and one for third graders. Two afternoon sessions featured "Mad Science" demonstrations in the gymnasium, one for fourth and one for third grade students. Team Leader Carla Carter provided this list of Dooley KIC information including conference group names, presenters' names and questions they investigated.

Morning seminars were kicked off with welcomes by Principal Loomis, Professor Wonder and Dr. Imagination (aka: fifth grade teachers). The welcome and select sessions were televised live from the school's science lab on Dooley Channel 77 throughout the school district and to Melissa ISD.

Phyllis, Jayne and MaryPhyllis Stoup, Jayne Cantwell and Mary Swinton of the Plano ISD Elementary Curriculum Department enjoyed seeing the Dooley KIC in action.

Mary Swinton, curriculum specialist, who visited the event along with other curriculum staff members and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Doug Otto, noted that, "Dooley found a creative approach to implement an event where all students feel like scientists. KIC allowed the students to share results of authentic, personally meaningful explorations with other Dooley students and were also able to share an enthusiasm for science that was contagious. The students and teachers were a joy to watch as they went through the process."

Ginger Britain, assistant director of elementary curriculum, said, "Attending the Kid's Inquiry Conference at Dooley was a wonderful opportunity. Students demonstrated that they are excited about learning science through projects that they selected and planned.

"Throughout the process students have included a seamless integration of a variety of technology applications. During the student presentations it was evident that students were confident in their work and had learned a great deal about science applications to real-world situations," said Ginger. "One of the most exciting things was watching the student audiences and the level of questions that they asked the presenters."

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