As a culminating project for their time in the Morgan Park Academy (MPA) Lower School, fifth-grade students completed an inquiry-based research project into a topic of their choosing, presenting to faculty and parents on May 21 and 22.

Exploring subjects from the Negro League baseball to ASMR to Irish stepdancing, the fifth-graders did fantastic work.

“The project begins with the learner,” said fifth-grade teacher Emily Fitch, of Mt. Greenwood. “Inquiry-based learning asks students what they know and what they want to learn more about, and students learn best when they are motivated and invested in their learning.”

Starting after spring break, MPA students selected topics for in-depth exploration and study, such as a new skill they would like to learn, an invention, an interesting person, a scientific wondering, a particular historical event or a past curriculum topic to explore in more detail.

First, the class discussed the process of choosing a topic, narrowing down the topic and creating a compelling, open-ended and sophisticated research question and sub-questions.

Next, the students investigated and researched their topics. This began with identifying and locating resources and selecting and evaluating the best resources. In this phase, the students brainstormed resources and conducted pre-research to ensure that there were appropriate and reliable sources available.

Students conducted research during class, took a field trip to the Harold Washington Library Center and worked independently at home to gather primary and secondary sources including books, websites, images, written documents, interviews, location visits, quotes and artifacts.

Finally, the students synthesized their information to create a product and presentation based upon their learning style, presenting it to faculty and families at the end of the semester.