Inquiry Based Learning and Mini Lesson Brainstorm

As I begin looking at the mini-lesson examples and criteria, my first concern comes from the age of my students. I teach 1st grade and I worry that what would be considered a “mini lesson” in 1st grade is not in-depth enough for this assignment. Realistically, a science block is less than 45 minutes and during that time only so much can be accomplished. Hopefully I’m able to show how I can maximize the learning time to complete an appropriate inquiry lesson during the given time.

Looking at our standards from the beginning of the school year, the first science topic is the characteristics and needs of plants and animals. The standard is

  1. obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the basic needs of plants and animals (GSE S1L1)
    1a. develop a model to identify the parts of a plant (i.e., root, stem leaf, and flower (GSE S1L1a)
    1b. ask questions to compare and contrast the basic needs of plants (i.e., air, water, light, and nutrients) and animals (i.e., air, water, food, and shelter) (GSE S1L1b)
    1c. design a solution to ensure that a plant or animal has all of its needs met (GSE S1L1c)

Because entering 1st graders have limited (and varied) reading abilities, a good technology-based assessment activity would be a Google slide with teacher-created plant parts and labels that students can drag onto the slide and arrange to reflect that they understand where each part is on the plant. Introductory activities would include videos and models that introduce the plant parts and the functions of each. Perhaps as a hook we could watch a part of an experiment with no explanation such as the celery experiment where you put a stalk of celery in colored water and watch the leaves at the top change colors. Students could ponder how this happened as they learn about the functions of roots and stems and create a reflection video on Flipgrid explaining what happened with the celery.

For the second lesson, students could explore the needs of plants. As I research, I’m having a little trouble finding technology based resources for this because I would typically teach this concept by using real life models, plants that we don’t give sunlight, plants that we don’t give water, and plants that we give everything they need to survive. I searched for online simulations of activities like this and had trouble finding anything that would spark as much curiosity as a real life plant will. I recall a website call Gizmos that had simulations where students could change how much water and sunlight plants received and watch how they grow, but it’s a paid program not offered at my current school (I think… I sent an email to our technology coordinator to confirm).

This lesson from PBS is really good, but requires more reading than my babies can do, so I would need to modify the lesson accordingly. I do like that they went beyond just “what are the needs of plants and animals” and took an inquiry-based approach, answering the question of how plants and animals can meet their needs in an urban environment.

I am really struggling with coming up with a lesson on the ethical use of resources that is appropriate for 1st graders. In 1st grade, just getting on the computers is hard and time-consuming enough. They don’t, realistically, find their own sources. I wonder if this can be modified, as I believe it was in one of the example mini-lessons, to “staying safe online” which seems to be a more appropriate topic for this age group.

Published by Sara

Educator - Blogger - Content Developer - Digital Marketer

2 thoughts on “Inquiry Based Learning and Mini Lesson Brainstorm

  1. I also teach first grade and I chose the same standard to make my mini-lesson with. I had the same concern you did regarding time. At my school, we have 30 minutes for science, so a “mini-lesson” would really only be 5-10 minutes. Something that I thought of doing with my students is having them create a virtual habitat using websites like the link below. They can play around with different amounts of plants and food that they include, and the temperature of the terrarium to see how it affects the organisms.


    1. This is exactly the sort of thing I was looking for! I wonder if I can find something similar that is just for plants to see if they can survive with varying levels of food, sunlight and nutrition instead of isopods. Thanks!


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