Using Technology to Create Inquiry-Based Lessons in Grade 9 Science

Area(s) of Focus: technology
Division(s): Intermediate
Level(s): Grade 9

The focus of the project was to develop the Grade 9 Science Astronomy Unit. Using the Halton Cloud (Google Drive), teachers collaborated to put together an outline, and 15 specific lesson plans including all resources required to complete each one.

This project included teachers from Oakville Trafalgar High School and presenters from the Ontario Science Centre. The focus of the project was to develop the Grade 9 Science Astronomy Unit. Using the Halton Cloud (Google Drive), teachers collaborated to put together an outline, and 15 specific lesson plans including all resources required to complete each one. Lesson plans included both online and hands-on inquiry-based learning opportunities throughout the unit, culminating in an open book evaluation at the end of the unit. A research project was developed to address the STSE (relating science and technology to society and the environment) curriculum strand. The plans and resources can easily be shared amongst teachers at the school, and within the province.

Team Members

  • Steven Fotheringham

    Halton District School Board

  • Jonathan Hilkewich

    Halton District School Board

  • Cliff Murphy

    Halton District School Board

  • Allison Durand

    Halton District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

The primary goal was to create a set of resources for Grade 9 astronomy that:

  1. Took advantage of the technology available within our schools to provide a 21st century learning experience.
  2. Used resources that were free to schools, which removes any financial barriers to learning.
  3. Had an emphasis on inquiry-based learning, either through hands-on activities (asteroid impact lab, luminosity lab, etc), or through technological simulations (Hubble Deep Field, Stellarium, etc).
  4. Had an emphasis on new topics not previously covered in the Grade 3 and 6 curriculum.

In terms of personal growth, the goal of the project was to merge our views on how to achieve these goals into one package. The four teachers involved come from a diverse background in education and as such, we initially had very different views as to how to put together this resource.

Activities and Resources

As a group, we met three times over the course of two months to discuss what the final product would look like. At our first meeting, we met as a group of four with two education consultants from Ontario Science Centre to brainstorm various activities that are available (or can be developed) for the astronomy curriculum.

At our second (and third) meeting, we would split off into pairs, so that we could take these ideas and string them together into lesson plans that would meet the Ontario curriculum.  Each lesson would be developed together by at least two people, which would allow for debate/discussion on how to refine these ideas.

The resources we utilized are from many sources, both online and from textbooks.

Unexpected Challenges

The structure of our meetings was such that the individual teacher teams were trusted to create the resources based upon the values set out on day 1 (lessons with an emphasis on technology and inquiry). However, since this project is relatively large in scale, there was not enough time for every teacher to provide input/advice on every lesson created. Every activity we created/researched ended up taking more time than initially thought, which left less time for editing.

Although this report may be the end of the OTF project, this is not considered to be the end of this project for us. We always knew that these lessons would change based upon student feedback, so these lessons will be updated over the course of the next year, based on student feedback. That is why a link is provided to a Google Drive folder, rather than a set of material – that way, they can be updated as required.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

By providing a set of standards, teachers who would otherwise be uncomfortable teaching Astronomy will now have the tools (and confidence) to deliver the material efficiently. As well, since many of our lesson plans rely on websites and activities, the students will be developing their own knowledge about the topic.  As a result, the teacher’s prior knowledge is irrelevant in regards to the students being successful.

As well, by developing lessons that are activity/inquiry based, it puts more ownership on the student for their own learning. This will result in lessons that will have increased staying power for the students.


So far, we have already presented our findings at the HDSB PD Day. We ran a 75-minute class where we gave teachers the opportunity to try out some of our ideas and provide feedback to the team. As such, our resources have already been distributed to all science teachers in HDSB via the Halton Cloud (Google Drive). We hope to expand this idea further in the 2015/2016 school year by presenting the resources at STAO, OAPT and the CASCA (Canadian Astronomical Society).

Project Evaluation

I consider the project to be a success, but the work is not done. At this point, we have a solid layout of a three-week plan for Astronomy that could be utilized by any teacher to cover all aspects of the curriculum. However, as the resources are currently being used for the first time, tweaking must be done by all of us to determine how these resources can be improved.

Many of these questions will be better answered at the end of June, when we can further gauge student engagement with the material. So far, students seem excited with what has been presented.

On a personal level, we found the experience to be an unqualified success. None of us had ever worked on a lesson planning project as a group, so we learned how to merge our ideas together to produce even better lessons!

Resources Used

This is the Google folder that contains all lesson plans and electronic resources referred to in the lesson plan. French translations (when available) are in a sub-directory of each lesson.