Resource Type
Completion Time
About 1 period
High school and Up
Download, Share, and Remix
Video, Decomposition Lab found at:
Power Point: Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning and glaciers
Lab Activity Sheets (one for each student): Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning and glaciers
Materials for the lab, listed below
Student access to the article listed in Resources section
The homework questions are included/could be with online quiz
some type of inclined planes with edges (PVC pipes split longitudinally work well)
school glue
borax solution (1/4 C borax per 1 quart water)
small cups
measuring spoon sets
craft sticks
20 ml graduated cylinders
250 ml graduated cylinders
cylinders with blue frozen water
200 g brass weights
Snow and Ice Science


This lesson was designed to teach pre-service teachers an inquiry-based approach for a science classroom. To give context to the activity, I used my experiences as part of “High Arctic Change 2014” for a lab activity. As such, the activity focuses on discovering how glaciers are formed and flow and how icebergs float in water. The materials can be modified and used to illustrate a variety of topics from teaching students the nature of science to simply a lesson about glaciers.


Understand inquiry-based learning as having the “potential to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on and ‘research-based disposition’ towards teaching and learning”. (Stephenson 2014) Be able to explain in your own words and provide examples and counter examples.

Lesson Preparation

Materials listed for preparation.


If used in as a lesson in the inquiry approach, the components of the lesson are:

  • A nine minute video to generate interest and introduce the concept of inquiry based learning.
  • A power point to review the inquiry approach and introduce basic glacier concepts.
  • A lab with three activities that investigate glacier formation, flow and how an iceberg floats.
  • Follow up reading assignment with three multiple-choice questions to check for understand of inquiry-based learning methods.


  • Choose a partner and a science misconception (ex: it is warmer in summer because that is when the Earth is closer to the sun).
  • Conduct research in order to gain a correct scientific understanding of the topic.
  • Collaborate with your partner to write a paper that states the misconception and gives a correct, scientific explanation.
  • Design an inquiry based learning activity that you could use with elementary age students that engages them and provides an opportunity for discovery. This could be a hands-on activity. It could be students learning through playing a game or conducting their own research. Students could interview experts or put together a presentation or report. The main goal is to increase intellectual engagement and foster deep understanding through the development of a hands-on, minds-on learning environment.
  • Give a ten-minute presentation, explaining the science behind the correct explanation of the phenomenon and demonstrating all/part of your inquiry activity.


Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning Website


Assessment can be through evaluation of the writing sample at the end of the lab, answers to the questions that follow the reading homework or through evaluation of the report and presentation included in the extension activity.

Author / Credits

PolarTREC teacher, Peggy McNeal created this lesson based on her experience with High Arctic Change 2014. Peggy may be reached at peggy.mcneal [at] The lab activities are adapted from The Ohio State University, College of Education and Ecology, “Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears”, licensed under a Creative Common License

Files Included

  • Power Point, Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning and Glaciers
  • Lab Activity: Introduction to Inquiry Based Learning and Glaciers
  • Homework follow up questions to reading assignment

Standards Other


InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards:
Standard #4: Content Knowledge
The teacher understands the central concepts, tools of inquiry, and structures of the discipline(s) he or she teaches and creates learning experiences that make these aspects of the discipline accessible and meaningful for learners to assure mastery of the content.

  • 4(c) The teacher engages learners in applying methods of inquiry and standards of evidence used in the discipline.
  • 4(j) The teacher understands major concepts, assumptions, debates, processes of inquiry, and ways of knowing that are central to the discipline(s) s/he teaches.