Further Inquiry into Plants and Photosynthesis through WISE

As I was exploring the WISE projects, I noticed that grade levels 3-5 were listed, however there were no projects available. I was hoping to see how WISE was used in these grades. I did however find a project that looks at a learning intention in the BC grade 2 science curriculum on life cycles (BC Ministry of Education, 2015). I chose to customize a Photosynthesis project (ID: 20937) to meet my learners needs and support them as they develop curricular competencies such as ‘make simple predictions’, ‘make and record observations’ and ‘transfer and apply learning to new situations’ (BC Ministry of Education, 2015). The reason I like this project is because it asks an inquiry question that can connect to our class’s project of planting seeds and observing plants grow. The driving question is, “How can a student grow the most energy-rich plants for her rabbit?” Using the WISE project to connect our knowledge from a lifecycle unit, will help drive the inquiry process when learning about photosynthesis. Connecting this to our reading, inquiries or investigations can be free-ranging explorations of unexplained phenomena, as the three trees example, or highly structured and guided by the teacher (Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards, 2008).

I customized this lesson to include a KWL model, which in our class is known as ‘know, wonder, learn’. “Many teachers use Know-Want-Learn (KWL) charts and variations of them when teaching science to access students’ prior knowledge on a particular topic and help students organize what they are learning during a science lesson or unit” (Hershberger, Zembal-Saul, and Starr, 2006). Immediately after the inquiry question, I customized it to include a KWL page where students can write down what they already know about plants and photosynthesis, and what they wonder or hope to learn through this unit. The L of the model will be at the end of the WISE Project for students to then reflect on what they’ve learned. The SKI framework promotes knowledge integration by making thinking visible for students, making science accessible for students, and encouraging students to take ownership over their learning by inquiring about scientific concepts (Linn, Clark, and Slotta, 2003). The KWL model makes student thinking visible by giving them a place to refer back to see how much they’ve learned. Students are always amazed when they compare how little they wrote in the ‘know’ section compared to how much they filled up in the ‘learn’ section at the conclusion. I also find that this supports students because they can refer back to what they wondered, and if they have not found the answer to their question, they often use personal inquiry time to take ownership and find out for themselves.

This project is customized to be shorter in length, as primary students need hands-on activities paired with the WISE project to fully support their learning. As students answer the questionnaire’s, I can retrieve the answers and group students according to their knowledge, using these tools as a formative assessment. I like that the classroom teacher is able to see how the students answer questions, and yet as the student progresses, they are corrected if their prediction is incorrect. This provides immediate support for students while clearing up any misconceptions. Within this WISE project I would use media such as Brain Pop Jr. to scaffold learners with visuals and video clips. I would also display a ‘Wonder Wall’ in the classroom for students to add ideas, connections, and new knowledge to make learning visible to the class. As this project is geared for intermediate grades, explicit details would need to be added and more interactive activities would need to take place within, to support primary learners.



British Columbia Ministry of Education. (2017). B.C.’s New Curriculum. Retrieved from: https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/curriculum/science/2

Hershberger, K., Zembal-Saul, C., & Starr, M. L. (2006). Evidence helps the KWL get a KLEW. Science and Children, 43(5), 50-53. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.library.ubc.ca/docview/236901811?accountid=14656

Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: a guide for teaching and learning. (2008). Washington: National Academy Press. Retrieved June 27, 2017, from: https://www.nap.edu/read/9596/chapter/4)

Linn, M. C., Clark, D., & Slotta, J. D. (2003). WISE design for knowledge integration. Science Education, 87(4), 517-538. Doi:10.1002/sce.10086


  1. Hi Danielle

    I like the fact that you incorporated examples that could be used with the new BC curriculum. It is great to hear how this is getting done.

    I wonder if the ‘Wonder Wall’ could go online, so students can add to it when they are at home

    A good next step might be to tie in your project (How can a student grow the most energy-rich plants for her rabbit?) with a local farm or high school classes that might be looking at the same thing.


    1. Hi Chris. That’s a great idea – a virtual wonder wall. This might also help students who are prone to be timid or shy in the class to add to it, either anonymously or with their name. I think that’s a great idea to extend the project after growing their own plants. Connecting their prior knowledge to the community would make their learning meaningful and help further their inquiry.

  2. Hi Danielle,

    I agree that finding suitable WISE projects for younger students is a concern, especially when scaffolded correctly they would be able to really benefit from these knowledge based projects. I like that you added the KWL as this is often a great way to engage quiet or more reflective students in the inquiry process. More importantly I think your point about student accountability is critical. This simple visual thinking routine provides students with a reflective tool that has them take ownership of their own learning and encourage them to collaborate and find out what is still unknown. I wonder how much time is dedicated to this piece of the puzzle when it comes to student learning and reflection?



    1. Hi Christina. In my experience this year with adding core competency development and reflection to our classroom, we found that it takes a lot of time. Students are often not reflective on their own, they need to be guided through the process. In our class we have the core competencies displayed with “I can” statements below (https://curriculum.gov.bc.ca/competencies). The new curriculum has profiles and illustrations for each one (communication, critical and creative thinking, and personal and social). I have found that when the students can relate what they’re doing to each of these competencies, it supports their reflection. For example, through coding, students are learning to see the difference between critical thinking and creative thinking. They take sticky notes and add examples below each competency for reference, as well as examples for reflections. In the Surrey district, we have many templates the students have been using to help guide their reflection (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9RzjUAfeEKGV2VVT21uWGtLYnc/view).

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