A Crystal and Cave Inquiry

Over the winter holidays, I decided we would embark on a crystal and cave inquiry. This inquiry was teacher driven, but allowed for a ton of student voice, choice and curiosity to guide where our learning took us.

When thinking about the Types of Student Inquiry, I always refer to Trevor MacKenzie’s concept from his book Dive Into Inquiry. This sketchnote allows us to really grasp the concept of where we are in the inquiry swimming pool, and how we can best support our learners in developing the necessary inquiry skills and processes to feel successful in inquiry. Types of Student Inquiry.PNG

This crystal and cave inquiry falls under the controlled section of the Types of Student Inquiry. I initially chose the topic and found the resources that would guide the learning. We are focusing on asking deep questions, following our interests, researching using non-fiction texts and as a group inquiring about caves & crystals. We also ended up having some choice and agency over animals, as our inquiry spiraled into learning about which animals live in caves. We were hoping to answer the essential question: Which types of animals live in caves? We had the opportunity to choose which animal we were interested in and we created small research focus groups to research about our animal.

All powerful inquiries begin with some type of provocation; whether the provocation comes from your learners or yourself it usually can be pinpointed to a specific moment that sparked interest, curiosity and laid the land for the rest of your inquiry. Here are some of the provocations that guided our learning and research during our cave & crystal inquiry.

Check out this provocation sketch from our (Trevor and I) co-authored book: Inquiry Mindset.

The Power of a Provocation

We started with a cave to explore, and a crystal and gem discovery table! Using picture and non-fiction books at your discovery and research table can be powerful provocations as well.


We then had some growing crystal provocations. This led to a lot of crystals, gems and home grown crystals being brought in from home. I find sharing our learning and inquiry, through pictures and videos, on Fresh Grade truly helps to break down any boundaries between school and home. You know the home to school connection is strong when families are sending in books, rocks, gems, geodes, crystals… the list goes on.


As our provocations and crystal observing continued, I wove in some animal provocations, small world play areas and picture books, to spark some connection making to animals. We followed our picture book provocations with journaling and writing activities. I find this allows time for learners to process the information and provides them with a chance to share their thinking, voice and opinions from the reading provocation. This is where our essential question came up around: What types of animals live in caves?


As our interest and curiosity continued to build around the idea of animals, so did our crystal and mineral interest. We used a digital microscope to take pictures of our crystals, this sparked SO much discussion, energy and engagement. The oral language (in French) during this activity was off the charts! So beautiful and intriguing.


As our learning continued, we worked in small interest focus groups for research. Our research was focused on which types of animals we predicted live in caves. We brainstormed different animals we thought lived in caves, and then chose an animal that we were most interested and passionate about.
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These small research focus groups provide learners with choice, voice and agency over their learning. Students have ownership of their learning and are chomping at the bit to get researching. We researched using non-fiction texts, reading pictures and searching for information. We recorded our research in our research booklets.

These are some highlights from our cave and crystal inquiry! If you are interested in seeing a bit more about how things unraveled, please check out my Instagram highlights: Cave Inquiry. My Instagram handle is @inquiryteacher ! 

Stay curious, 




The Power of Provocations

I always get asked well how do you start an inquiry? How do you know if they are interested in a topic? How do you know if the kids have prior-knowledge in an area, or if you have to build it? Provocations, provocations, oh yeah and…provocations!

Here is a little sneak peek of our upcoming book, Inquiry Mindset. If you haven’t checked out my amazing co-author, Trevor MacKenzie, you’ll be blown away. This sketchnote sums up the power behind a provocation. This is just one of the sketchnotes in our Inquiry Mindset book, we can’t wait for you to see more. The Power of a Provocation .PNG

A provocation can be a beautiful set up, an image, a GIF, a picture book, an activity, a video clip, a field trip, materials, a nature walk, etc. to spark curiosities around and about an inquiry topic or idea. We use provocations with our learners to ignite inquiry. We observe, record and reflect on the discussions, interactions and creative ideas that are switched on by the provocation. If all goes well, provocations lead to beautiful and deep learning. They help to drive and guide inquiries. At times, they can also show us that the topic is perhaps not driving a ton of questions and passion, so something may need to be tweaked.

Here are some of my favourite provocations:

I would love to see your favourite provocations! Share them to our online community to inspire your colleagues using our #InquiryMindset hashtag.

Stay curious,