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The Fleet Inquiry Institute (FII)

February 09, 2010

Updated: February 9, 2010

The Fleet Inquiry Institute

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center established the Fleet Inquiry Institute (FII) in 2002 to improve science education in the formal classroom environment by offering professional development to 3rd-8th grade teachers. Through several grants, the Fleet has been able to externally evaluate its efforts and link teacher participation in FII professional development to increased student achievement. These results have provided the Fleet with the evidence that the inquiry-based pedagogy so fundamental to learning on the exhibit floor can support student learning in the classroom. Through community partnerships the FII works with teacher education students at the community college level, pre-service teachers, beginning teachers, and high school teachers. The Fleet Inquiry Institute currently offers a weeklong training in inquiry free of charge for K- 8th grade teachers each summer and winter.


Inquiry-based learning is an innovative teaching approach driven by the natural curiosity and wonder every child possesses. It begins when a student experiences something new or surprising that raises questions. Teachers begin inquiry lessons with a hands-on activity that allows students to experience a scientific phenomenon in action and react to it with spontaneous curiosity and questions. Those questions form the basis for further investigation, typically done in a small group setting, in which students interact with materials, make observations, propose tentative explanations, form test predictions and record their observations through writing or drawing. The activity culminates in a sharing of the understanding each group has arrived at, with the teacher/facilitator drawing upon the student findings to summarize the key science concepts covered in the lesson. As a result, the students learn not only science content, but the process of scientific inquiry – how to observe, how to form and test hypotheses and alternatives, and how to communicated what they have learned. An inquiry-based classroom is a lively, focused environment that encourages students to be imaginative, creative and responsible. Students who learn through inquiry become actively engaged in their learning and feel ownership of what they have learned and develop skills which lead to greater understanding, recall and achievement.

About the Fleet Science Center:
The Fleet Science Center connects people of all ages to the possibilities and power of science to create a better future. At the science center, you can explore and investigate more than 100 interactive exhibits that pique your curiosity and become immersed in an IMAX film adventure that shows the wonders of the planet--and beyond--in the Eugene Heikoff and Marilyn Jacobs Heikoff Giant Dome Theater. For young science enthusiasts, the Fleet hosts school field trips, science workshops and educational camps. For adults, we offer events like Fleet Night of Science and community events, such as Two Scientists Walk Into a Bar™. In the community, we also provide free neighborhood science events weekly through 52 Weeks of Science. Teachers are encouraged to join our Teacher Partner Program and take advantage of our professional development opportunities. Additionally, at the Fleet Science Center, visitors will find unique educational toys and games, books, IMAX DVDs and more in the North Star Science Store, and pizzas, sandwiches, salads and healthy treats in our Craveology cafe. Located in Balboa Park, at 1875 El Prado, two blocks south of the San Diego Zoo on Park Blvd., the Fleet is San Diego's science center. Science starts here and opens a world of possibility.For information regarding current admission prices, visit our website at fleetscience.org.
About Balboa Park:
Located near downtown San Diego, Balboa Park is the largest urbancultural park in the United States. First established by the City of San Diego in 1868, it is also one of the oldest city parks in the nation and is the most visited single destination in San Diego. Its 1,200 acres include 17 museums, many gardens and attractions, the San Diego Zoo, miles of hiking trails, and multiple athletic complexes to explore and discover. For more information, visit balboapark.org.