Questions to Inspire more Questions – Inquiry

This collection of driving and investigatable questions is the result of an ongoing collaboration and brainstorming of MANY reform-minded science teachers (pre-service, practicing & former) and teacher leaders.  Please share your thoughts and suggestions as we seek to work together to both develop the list of questions as well as innovative uses for them!!

Once you use one of these questions – SHARE your resources – tips, suggestions, overviews, assessments, rubrics – so we can all learn together!!

This is a link to a padlet  (wall on the Web) that we (Science Film STARS) created in January 2014 to inspire science investigative film ideas.

 Here are other questions we brainstormed over the years:

Is it easy to be green?

  • Are Green products worth it? i.e. How does the “type” of product (green versus not) vary with respect to effectiveness? (My husband swears by his organic drain unclogger – but we have used 75 times and it still isn’t unclogged.  Wouldn’t it be better to just use Draino once?)
  • How should I get to school? i.e. How does the “mode” of transportation (e.g. walking, bus, bike, car) vary with respect to “cost” of resources (e.g. energy expenditure, monetary cost, environmental impact)?  (How can we scientifically and otherwise measure “cost” to make important comparisons and thus decisions?) Molly

How is our world connected?

  • What rots best? (i.e. How do different materials vary with respect to their decomposition rate in a typical landfill context?)
  • How can we create supportive living spaces? (i.e. How do different Bottle Biology (Orlando and others – check out the great online resource they created to complement the book) ecosystems impact plant growth?)
  • Isn’t all water the same? (i.e. How do different types of water (e.g. distilled, lake, river, bottled, acid rain) impact the health of an ecosystem (as modeled in bottles)?

What unwanted visitors are in our school? – Jared (very interested in soap vs. sanitizer)

  • Is soap better than sanitizer? (i.e. How does the the method of cleaning impact its effectiveness?) Galina
  • What lives where? (e.g. How do locations vary with respect to the presence of bacteria? or How does location (e.g. in and out-of-school spaces) impact the nature of community of the invaders (e.g. noise, air quality, bacteria))?
  • Can science stop the spread of STD’s? (Do we want to compose a question having to do with STD’s?  For example, we could study how various lubricants impact the effectiveness of condoms. Clearly – we would need to be so careful with this topic, as the most effective way to avoid STD’s is to not have sex.  That said, STD’s is an important aspect of young people’s health – for example, see this resource. I think, if we engaged with this question, we definitely want to collaborate with parents and administrators.)

Am I really what I eat?

  • How do energy drinks impact our health? (i.e. How does caffeine impact the heart rate of daphia?) Harvey
  • What happens when I exhaust my muscles? (i.e. How does heart rate impact muscle fatigue – connect to mandatory state lab for living environment called Making Connections – here is a power point created by a science teacher leader in NY state) – challenge students to come up with their own way(s) increase their heart rate.
  • Does breakfast really matter? (i.e. How does eating breakfast effect students’ abilities to think and concentrate? Check out this investigation that kids designed and conducted called Breakfast Science.)
  • What foods go the distance? (i.e. How do different food types compare with respect the energy they give me?) There are a number of resources to support you with this investigation such as this lesson plan or this lesson plan(this second one is a pdf).  Here is a question a student posted which will be helpful in anticipating learner struggles: Theresa

Shall we dance?

  • Do Wii sports exist on planet Earth? (i.e. How does a given Wii sport (e.g. tennis) compare to real life with respect to various measurements of motion?) Marshall
  • How do poppers pop and breakers break? (i.e. How do different moves compare with respect to particular measurements of motion (e.g. center of gravity, momentum, etc)?  OR How do different types of dance (ballet, tap, break dance, popping, etc.) impact a dancer’s heart rate? OR How do different moves vary with respect to needed momentum?)
  • Pasco has software that can support the analysis for these studies.  Orlando has seen this used – ask him to help you!!

What makes music good? Alex

  • Do kids like their parents’ music? (i.e. How do parents’ and their kids’ favorite music compare with respect to measurements of sound?)
  • How do I get the best sound? (i.e. How do different microphones vary with respect to  measurements of sound quality? OR How do different media (e.g. LP’s, CD’s, digital downloads) vary with respect to sound quality?
  • Where should we sing? (i.e. How do different design features of a room impact acoustics/sound quality?)

Where is my place in space?

  • What makes a dead zone? (i.e. What design features – structure and materials –  are most effective at limiting cell phone reception?)

What makes things go?

  • What makes a roller coaster fun? (i.e. How does incline impact participants’  tummy feel?)
  • What makes a rocket go high? (i.e. How do design features impact rockets’ height? – Anne B suggests using Estes rockets (kits for teachers!) – the non-parachute ones so you can measure height with time more accurately – I suggest you invite Anne to come to help as a mentor who has done these investigations before!)
  • How do you make a pumpkin fly? (i.e. What design features result in the farthest launch of a particular object?  This Pumpkin Launch is done at UR around October 15 each year – hosted by the student society of mechanical engineers – check out the video.  I suggest setting one up to compete as a pilot test, and then using that insight  to help learners design and conduct a tighter investigation – limit the independent variable(s) to one and make the flying object something consistent across trials.  Also, find some students from UR who have done this before and bring them to you to serve as support for the kids!!)
  • What makes it go FAST? (i.e. How do different fuel types impact potential for speed?)

We ran out of brainstorming time to develop investigatable questions for the next two overarching questions – maybe you can help….

What makes me me?

How can I change the world?



Possible Driving/Sexy Questions:
e.g. How do energy drinks impact our health?
– Is global warming true?
– What is a hybrid car?
– What is a joule/watt and why is it important?
– Why should we care about climate change?
– Do you like it when it gets 100 degrees in the summer?
– How do we give back to the Earth?
-How much energy is in an ecosystem?
-Where does electricity come from?
-google earth tour of where electricity comes from if a field trip is not feasible
-Where do greenhouse gases come from?
-How many trees did your cheeseburger kill?
…is it killing you?
-grassfed vs. cornfed beef
-U of R students read Power Steer by Michael Pollan and use that for background about the process of raising a
cornfed cow.
-Energy used to cook a hamburger, use the specific heat of water to make an approximate calculation. compare
that to running a light bulb, making a cup of coffee, driving a car, etc.
-Can you make a difference?
-What is the impact of different modes of transport? (walking, biking, driving, bus, train, airplane)
– How could we produce energy differently? How could we conserve/make more efficient?
-How do your choices affect the energy flow in an ecosystem?


Possible Testable Questions:
e.g. How do different concentrations of caffeine impact the heart rate of a daphnia?
– Is (How is) the pH of rain in Rochester harmful to our urban ecosystem?
– How does what I eat affect the environment/ urban ecosystem?
– How can we decrease the amount of material we put in a landfill?
– Vermi Composting
– How do different pH levels affect plant growth in a small body of water?
– How does having extra amount of carbon in the atmosphere affect ____?
– What types of foods decompose at a faster rate?
-What consumes the most power and what are the implications? (look at different energy producing “tools” around the
-What is the impact of what I am eating on the climate?

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