Guiding Inquiry-Based Learning

13 Nov 2018 4:46 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

By Rob Malo

Although the setting may vary, the educator’s role when guiding inquiry-based learning does not change much. The lines of questioning that will guide any group of learners towards the wanted learning outcomes are very similar in any given environment. The following example will demonstrate how the guide may ask the group of learners the same questions in an inquiry-based learning system when in an indoor setting, an outdoor setting or an imaginary setting. This approach to inquiry-based learning is effective for all age groups including adults.

THE CANOE: An Inquiry-Based Learning Example

Educational Goals: Become familiar with how a canoe functions. Discover what materials may be used to build a canoe. Give examples of how canoes have been used traditionally compared to how they are used in modern times.

Indoor classroom setting: Have the learners organize their seats into the shape of one or more canoes.

Outdoor setting (with real canoe, paddles and life jackets): With the canoe out of the water, have the students stand around the equipment. Let them pick up a paddle and put on a life jacket at their own pace. Let learners who are familiar with the equipment show others by asking them to demonstrate. Continue this first canoe lesson out of the water as it will help the learners focus their interest on the actual craft and relevant objects related to the wanted learning outcome.

Imaginary setting: In an empty space, have the learners imagine the shape of a canoe and make-believe putting on life jackets and picking up paddles.

Before anyone sits in either a constructed, real or imaginary canoe, ask the following:

Does anyone know what a canoe is? Who here has been in a canoe before? If we are to board a canoe that is in the water, what do we need to wear? What do we need in our hands to guide the canoe? How do we move the canoe over land? How do we navigate it on the water? How do we make the canoe go straight? How do we make it turn? How were canoes made in the past? What are they made of today? What advantages does one material have over another? What were canoes used for in the past? What are they used for today? Are there any others things to know, or are there additional tools and equipment needed in the canoe to ensure the safety of the paddlers? Does anyone know a good paddling song they could teach the group?

Ask the above questions. Allow enough time for individuals to answer the questions out loud to the larger group or break into smaller groups to research a topic related to the questions. Allow time for the small groups to share their findings with the larger group once gathered again. Let the learners try things out, they may even create props for paddles, life jackets, even voyageur sashes. Let them demonstrate to each other how to paddle or portage the craft. Encourage research of different kinds, either by using screen technology, books, or even contacting experts. Have the group board the canoe pretending that it is really on the water. The guide ends the session by joining the learners in the canoe. Once the group agrees that the educational goals have been reached, let emotions run high while the whole group sings and paddles together.

Please visit for more lesson plan ideas!

Raised in a Franco-Manitoban Métis family, Rob Malo is a writer, performer, and community-builder who shares his passion for history and culture through traditional music, storytelling and song. Drawing on his background as an Educational Programs Developer at the Manitoba Museum and as a Professor in the Tourism Department of l'Université de St. Boniface, Rob has been awarded multiple Certificates of Excellence from Interpretation Canada for both TiBert le Voyageur live presentations and digital educational tools.  Contact Rob at

Interpretation Canada c/o Kerry Wood Nature Centre 6300 45th Ave Red Deer, AB, Canada  T4N 3M4

Interprétation Canada  a/s du Kerry Wood Nature Centre, 6300 45e Avenue, Red Deer, Alberta T4N 3M4

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software