HTH instructors explain the importance of forming essential questions that are open ended, complex, and provocative and how they lay the foundation for a project.
[MUSIC PLAYING] Something that has always stayed with me is that essential questions need to be open-ended complex and provocative. And the types of questions, where there can not only be one right answer and it’s not something a student could quickly Google.
We did a project called the [? wild fund ?] protectors and in that project, the essential question was how our plants and animals [? helpers ?] in their community.
For this project our essential question is, how can we connect with the human experience? And we have kind of the theme of courage. So we’re wondering even if we’ve never been Naval aviators, how might we as humans be able to connect over the theme of courage?
Essential question was what does it mean to act like a girl? And it was a third grade project about gender norms.
One thing I’ve learned is that simple questions often beget complex answers. So during a biology humanities collaborative water testing project, students work with a local nonprofit organization to investigate the question is it safe to go in the water.
A lot of the projects that I’ve been like really working on in recent years has been with an organization or with someone or need based projects. So that essential question kind of comes naturally out of that need.
I start just drafting out questions and I’m OK. I love getting feedback from other people. If I feel like, Oh, this is not open-ended enough.
Sometimes during the planning process, we start with an essential question and build the project experience around that question. At other times, I might start with an idea for the project or an idea for the exhibition and the essential question becomes apparent later on in that planning process.
When students approach it that final product or the way they answer, is not hopefully won’t always be the same for everyone.
It’s valuable at so many stages. Initially, I think it’s a good framework for understanding like where you’re going to go with the project. But I think in the most meaningful projects I’ve been a part of, there’s been a time when a student can point to every single activity that they’ll have through the year and be able to respond to that essential question in some way.