Giving Children Space: A Phenomenological Exploration of Student Experiences in Space Science Inquiry
Horne, Christopher Robert
MetadataShow full item record
This study explores the experiences of 4th grade students in an inquiry-based space science classroom. At the heart of the study lies the essential question: What is the lived experience of children engaged in the process of space science inquiry? Through the methodology of phenomenological inquiry, the author investigates the essence of the lived experience of twenty 4th grade students as well as the reflections of two high school students looking back on their 4th grade space science experience. To open the phenomenon more deeply, the concept of space is explored as an overarching theme throughout the text. The writings of several philosophers including Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer are opened up to understand the existential aspects of phenomenology and the act of experiencing the classroom as a lived human experience. The methodological structure for the study is based largely on the work of Max van Manen (2003) in his seminal work, Researching Lived Experience, which describes a structure of human science research. A narrative based on classroom experiences, individual conversations, written reflections, and group discussion provides insight into the students' experiences. Their stories and thoughts reveal the themes of activity, interactivity, and "inquiractivity," each emerging as an essential element of the lived experience in the inquiry-based space science classroom. The metaphor of light brings illumination to the themes. Activity in the classroom is associated with light's constant and rapid motion throughout the Milky Way and beyond. Interactivity is seen through students' interactions just as light's reflective nature is seen through the illumination of the planets. Finally, inquiractivity is connected to questioning, the principal aspect of the inquiry-based classroom just as the sun is the essential source of light in our solar system. As the era of No Child Left Behind fades, and the next generation of science standards emerge, the students' stories are viewed through the lens of the scientific practices found in A Framework for K-12 Science Education (The National Research Council, 2011). The critical challenge for elementary educators interacting with this text is to find the lived meaning of giving children space in an inquiry-based experience.