A New Inquiry-Based, NGSS Learning Opportunity That’s Ideal for Middle School and High School

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 5 years old.

Are you a middle school or high school science teacher looking to provide your students with a new, inquiry-based, NGSS-oriented learning opportunity?

If so, you may want to check out the recently launched KQED Learn.

KQED Learn is a free, flexible platform for inquiry-based learning, a hub for student-voice, a launching pad for exploration, and a showcase for student-made media that inspires students to research, reflect and respond to timely issues.

When all is said and done, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if your students describe what they find on Learn as having provided them with a very interesting, informative, and engaging learning experience.

To Explore Learn

Begin by registering as a teacher and creating your class. Then have your students do the following:

  • Register at KQED Learn and join your class using your class code.
  • Go to the most recent Go Above the Noise topic.
  • View the video.
  • Read the accompanying article.
  • Respond to the Go Above the Noise question for the topic. (This your students can do as they would with anything in your class . . . by first making a claim and then providing their supporting evidence and reasoning.) But, since they’re participating in an online community, they can also respond to comments from students in different schools and classrooms.

Then, invite your students to go deeper into the topic by joining an Investigation. In Investigations, your students can:

  • Join other students who are investigating the same topic. Participants’ names will appear on the right side of the screen. This collaborative space is one of the best and most distinctive aspects of KQED Learn.
  • Upload a video, article or other online resource they have found that helps answer the core Investigation question. All students in the Investigation will be able to see, rate and comment on the resource.
  • Upload their own Make & Share–a digital media piece that your students have produced that answers the core Investigation question. This could be a video, slideshow, PSA, blog post, infographic, music clip, etc.
  • Reflect on the Make & Shares that other students have uploaded.

One of the great beauties of KQED Learn is that when students post/upload something to the site, other students, as long as they are registered to access Learn, can respond to that post/upload, but the rest of the world cannot.

How I Made Use of Learn in my High School Physics Class

I began by having my students take each step described above. Then I decided to have my students make some additional use of KQED Learn.


During the pilot of KQED Learn, one of our Go Above the Noise topics was about climate change and extreme weather. During the pilot of KQED Learn, I first had my students watch the Above the Noise video, Does Climate Change Cause Extreme Weather?

After watching the video, they read these articles from The Lowdown: After the Fires, North Bay Teachers and Students Talk Disaster Readiness and Is Climate Change to Blame for Hurricane Harvey and Other Extreme Weather Disasters?

I asked my students to investigate whether climate change is to blame for the increase in the intensity of forest fires, Hurricane Harvey and other extreme weather disasters. They posted their conclusions and supporting evidence to KQED Learn. I then had my students create a digital media piece related to the core Investigation question and post it to KQED Learn. Here are two representative samples:

What I Thought About Learn

When recently asked to describe what I thought about the new KQED Learn platform, I said I loved it! There are so many current, relevant, and NGSS-based topics to choose from and new ones are always being added. I also greatly appreciate the fact that KQED has provided my students with such a safe and reliable online resource, a place where my students can use the internet for good, not evil. And on top of everything else, with KQED Learn, my students -- as a result of their knowing that their work would/could be viewed by students world-wide -- elevated their game.

Sidenote #1

In October of last year, the Northern California wine country wildfires, the costliest group of wildfires on record, caused at least $9.4 billion in insured damages. As the fires raged, questions arose as to why were these fires so intense and what caused them to spread at such a fast rate. Since my physics students were part of the KQED Learn pilot program, I asked KQED to add two more questions to the list of Investigations:

  1. How can people best help their community in a time of need?
  2. Has climate change increased the frequency and intensity of forest fires? If so, what can be done to mitigate these effects?

For the sake of their KQED Learn work, I had my students answer these two questions as well.

Sidenote #2

While exploring KQED Learn, my students were also engaging in a multiple class project on climate change. In other words, they were exploring the topic of climate change with students enrolled in chemistry, environmental and English classes, but with the students in each class exploring the topic of climate change through the lens of their particular course content. When some of the students in these classes completed their KQED Learn related work, they presented that work at the 2018 YES Conference.

Final Thought

Learn doesn’t just provide science students with inquiry-based learning opportunities. It provides inquiry-based learning opportunities for students enrolled in all other major middle school and high school courses of study.