It is a commonplace occurrence: a group of students gathers at the classroom window, watching the activities of birds and sharing their informal observations. But for Phyllis Whitin, her class, and her collaborator, David Whitin, what began as a common event grew into an uncommon journey of shared wonder and discovery. On one level, this is the story of an elementary classroom's yearlong study of birds. But it is also the story of children looking closely at their world, raising questions, confronting scientific problems, and becoming empowered by the fruits of their own efforts. It is the story of inquiry itself and an inspiration for any educator concerned with preserving and fueling the innate sense of wonder we all possess.
In order to support their belief that inquiry is a spiraling, interwoven process, the authors do not offer a strictly chronological account of their year. Rather, they start with the premise that firsthand experience must be the beginning point for scientific study. We see students throughout the year sharing observations, interpreting their own scientific data, and constructing tentative theories. We also see them conversing with a community of learners that includes families, members of wildlife societies, and ornithologists; a remarkable process that generates further questions and legitimizes children as scientific thinkers in their own right. This book leaves the reader not with a prescriptive formula to follow but with a vision of learning that celebrates surprise, thrives on doubt, and honors multiple perspectives. It will be a valuable resource for pre-service and in-service teachers who want a close look at interdisciplinary learning.