How does Inquiring Minds work?

WE DESIGN PROCESSES AND TOOLS for the classroom as well as expanded (soft) learning time to help schools make this cultural shift - to project based learning.

LET US HELP YOU WITH THAT Here are snapshots for 4 different processes/programs we offer. Scroll further down for a bit more information and detail on each offering.

This practical workshop, led by neuroscientist Dr. Elizabeth Waters, illuminates how the brain develops and how learning happens at all ages. 

Developed with students and teachers, this is an Interactive, integrated, visual approach to inquiry units for all elementary grade levels.

Upper elementary students are trained to intervene in student conflicts, lead resolution and generate amicable solutions across all elementary grade levels.

Upper elementary student lead and works together to improve aspects of the school identified by the students themselves. Kids' Council can also incorporate both Peacekeepers and Learning Walls in its programming.

Inquiring Minds USA has developed processes and programs to improve student engagement that provides, simultaneously, professional development for teachers and avenues for students to exercise their agency. In the process students develop a sense of agency, autonomy and civic engagement.

"What does self reliance mean?"  we asked. David, 5th grader, replied, 

“Relying on yourself – to pull yourself forward. I say that all the time to myself.”

Motivated students become helpful problem seekers and solvers and can improve the school’s learning environment, profile and safety.

A big goal for our public schools is to make the switch to learner-centered culture. Isn’t that easier said than done? The rewards are great!

Hacking the Brain

led by Dr. Elizabeth Waters

This workshop examines myths and facts about what brain research tells us about learning and how it can inform education practices at different stages of development.

We use structured thinking and conversation practices to build a visual document that demonstrates the value of each person in the classroom.

Students, teachers, parents and administrators make their own user manuals for optimizing their brain function in the course of the workshop. 

Each group evaluates the evidence for common myths about the brain including left-brain vs right-brain and learning styles at the age appropriate level.  

Simple but powerful demonstrations of “brain hacking” are used to demonstrate how the brain is always ready to learn and develop new memories. Models of the brain and its components are used to discuss how the brain changes and why it continues to change when you learn – at any age. This will be used to examine fixed versus growth mindset attitudes and practice ways to develop productive growth mindset habits. 


• Identify positive influencers of brain development and function to incorporate into classrooms, informal learning spaces, and everyday life

• Experience some of the ways that the brain is changeable throughout life

• Understand intelligence as skill that requires practice

• Practice growth mindset strategies that work in any setting.

• Engage parents and students as partners in the learning process

Learning Walls make children's learning visible and collaborative


Learning Walls: celebrate and document students’ understanding of practices and content knowledge.

Led by DK Holland and Dr. Elizabeth Waters

This workshop uses structured thinking and conversation practices to build a visual document that demonstrates the value of each person in the classroom.

Students create Learning Walls to build consensus and open new avenues for learning.

Within a lesson, a unit or an entire year, students practice thinking, learning and reflecting on their understanding of a process or idea. Students learn different roles involved in developing consensus, whether peer-to-peer cognitive modeling, connecting thinking to other’s ideas, recognizing everyone’s input, or reaching the best possible explanation. Students set goals for learning by looking for missing pieces in the group’s explanation of a question or process and revise their visual document as they develop a more sophisticated explanation.  As they learn to value and build on the ideas of their classmates, they also compare their experiences of learning a topic and reflect on how differences in perspectives increases their overall understanding.

Learning Walls provides teachers and administrators professional development.

During the workshops, teachers participate in developing a learning wall display and practice coaching groups through learning wall development. This training also covers ways to transform structured thinking practices or strategies into visual displays and to develop group discussion skills that reflect both inclusion and differentiation. Ongoing coaching, in school or remote, is provided to teachers to assist in refining and building strategies for building group learning practices and learning wall displays.


• Engage in cognitive modeling to share their learning with peers

• Synthesize learning to express increasing complex ideas


• Engaged students as partners in the learning process

• Display of student work aligned with unit goals and standards

Peacekeepers: Resolving conflict contributes to learning
and growth

Led by DK Holland and Dr. Elizabeth Waters

Peacekeepers gives students new tools for personal growth.

Peace Keepers is a peer-to-peer mentoring model that trains and offers ongoing coaching to upper elementary students to be role models and facilitators for younger children experiencing social conflicts.  It builds on key concepts of emotional intelligence including 1) Self-awareness 2) Self-management 3) Social awareness and 4) Relationship management.  Student practice these skills in order to assist students experiencing conflict through both direct and indirect support.  

This program encourages peacekeepers (ie students trained as to help resolve conflict) to intervene and arrive at an amicable solution under the guidance of their coach.  This program is targeted for upper elementary students but can be adapted for middle or high school students.  Students meet after school (or at lunch) with their coach, usually a teacher or administrator for ongoing training and group discussions. In addition, the Peacekeeper coach debriefs students about the conflicts they participated in at weekly meetings or as needed.

Peacekeepers provides teachers and administrators professional development.

During the workshops, teachers and administrators learn how to use Peacekeepers as a tool to develop student agency and emotional intelligence. Through role playing identifying different emotional responses, and techniques for building empathy are practiced with dynamic coaching in the context of conflict resolution. Ongoing coaching, in school or remote, is provided to the Peacekeeper coach or coaching staff by a facilitator to assist in refining and building the Peacekeeper student training.  


• Cultivate peer-to-peer communication skills

• Learn how, as a bystander, to intercede in a student mediation

• Develop self and social awareness


• Improved overall school culture 

• Increased respect and communication between adults and students

Kids' Council - democratic leadership - upper elementary
Students team-up to improve their school

Students are the greatest resource in growing an effective school. With that in mind, Inquiring Minds USA has created processes to guide student development and teacher facilitation. Our ultimate goal is for kids to learn to be independent cooperators and engaged thinkers/doers.

We believe that students know best how they best learn. Through the Kids’ Council process, students create and maintain a cooperative peer-to-peer council within the school focused on improving the school’s learning environment.

Simultaneously, we provide strategies and tools for teachers to move to a facilitation mindset as well as avenues for students to exercise agency. In the process they develop independent thinking as well as team building skills.

Students in upper grades are often motivated to improve their school before they leave it – it’s their legacy. And, of course, they often have very practical ideas and problem solutions that may not occur to adults.

Our process revolves around teacher and administrator workshops as well as dynamic coaching of teachers in the classroom. This orients the whole school to the value and purpose of KIds’ Council. We recommend training 2 teachers to co-facilitate the Council.


• Enhance peer-to-peer communication skills

• Greater investment in student-created solutions that work

• Increase skills in tackling real world questions

• Trained in bystander mediation

• Confident authentic selves emerge

• Increased democratic leadership skills


• More harmonious classrooms

• Overall improvement of school culture

• Increased respect between adults and students

• Improved communication between teachers and students

• Savvy presentation, literacy skills demonstrated at all-school events

What is inquiry? 

The 4 main disciplines of the arc equip students to become actively engaged in their nation:

1. Developing questions and planning inquiries

Encourages students to ask main and supporting questions about historical events and concepts learned in class lessons. Teachers also play a role by supporting and encouraging their students’ development of ideas.

2. Evaluating sources and using evidence

Asks students to research in a variety of forms and then develop their claims or understand the claims of others.

3. Applying disciplinary concepts and tools

Values the importance of what content the teachers decide to present the students. In this main idea, “Disciplinary” refers to a subject such as civics, economics, geography, or history. A student may examine one or all of these subjects in order to gather evidence to share their question and/or answer in class.

4. Communicating conclusions and taking informed action

We examine the process by which students compile their findings and share them with others. The demonstration of knowledge is in the presentation. This could mean creating a portfolio, such as a video or an essay. Since Inquiring Minds is design focused, the arc is part of our design process.

We also worked with the team who developed C3 Framework (which is being adapted in many state standards including New York State through Engage NY). The centerpiece of inquiry is the Inquiry Arc. With our focus on developing disciplined civic engagement, the arc has become one of our best tools.

In respect to the social studies state standards, The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework encourages critical thinking for K-12 students. Inquiring Minds designed the visual format for this framework which prepares students to be active citizens by offering a level-by-level structure showing how a student at every grade-level can act thoughtfully in a democratic environment that continues to develop culturally and physically. 

The C3 Framework document also offers an overview of their English Language Arts/Literacy Common Core Connections. As noted in the ELA/ Literacy Common Core Standards, students who are college and career ready can independently ‘construct effective arguments and convey intricate or multifaceted information' and ‘use relevant evidence’ when making arguments.

Where did the C3 Framework come from?

"The College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards was conceptualized by individual state leaders in social studies education and supported by fifteen professional organizations representing four core social studies content areas: civics, economics, geography, and history. The C3 Framework was written by experts in the academic disciplines and social studies education in collaboration with classroom teachers, state social studies education leaders, and representatives of professional organizations.    

Work on the C3 Framework began in 2010 with the development of an initial conceptual guidance document written by individuals from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Social Studies Assessment, Curriculum, and Instruction state collaborative and by representatives from the professional associations. The framework writers were selected in consultation with the participating professional associations. Feedback was solicited throughout the process from stakeholders, including invitational reviews with professional organizations, teachers, and critical friends."

(from page 7 of Social Studies for the Next Generation: Purposes, Practices, and Implications of the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards)


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