This thing we call “Sustained Inquiry”

55 million kilometres away, give or take (depending on the time of year), our closest neighbour Mars circles the sun — just like us. Two weeks ago, our species was able to land Insight on it — the seventh rover that is responsible for exploring the Red Planet. (They have not all been successful, because landing a robot on a planet 55 million kilometres away is presumably difficult.)

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First image of Mars taken by Insight.

I’ll admit it. I am completely addicted to this mission. I am constantly checking NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab website for updates on video, images, and now even sound. Here is the sound of wind on Mars, captured by Insight (You will need to use headphones or a sub woofer):

How amazing is this! We landed an object on Mars safely and now we are able to listen to the wind whipping over the solar panels of Insight from 55 million kilometres away! I don’t know about you, but this blows my mind and has me asking deep existential questions.

It was this inquiry — that is the inquiry demonstrated by the NASA team — that truly astounds me and has also directed our professional learning as a faculty. On Friday at the Maples Met School, we engaged with several ideas and scholars, including Yuval Harari, Suzie Boss, and Ken Robinson. We were determined to answer deep questions about our instruction, assessment, and our relationship with each other and our learners.


Suzie Boss from the Buck Institute and Edutopia speaking to the Maples Met School faculty about sustained inquiry.

One of the key questions we asked and discussed was: How do we structure our advisories for inquiry? That is, how do we foster learning environments that have the necessary structures and scaffolds to produce consistent moments of deep inquiry?

And this line of inquiry on our part stemmed from an incredible whole-school conversation led by our learners on Wednesday, where they put forth that they wanted more structure and scaffolding in project work, they demanded greater accountability from each other, and they want to go deeper with their internship projects.

Harari’s latest book, in particular his chapter on Education, provides learners with some charged advice. The advice is essentially to not rely on adults to prepare you for the future and to turn consumption on its head.  That is to say to produce new ideas (to create) and not to simply consume them. While with the former advice I take issue with, given that mentors will always be critical to our learning, I believe sustained inquiry – coupled with purpose, and creativity –  (all ideas that are interdependent) is the pocket or learning when we prove learners with time and space to create and to sustain their creative investigative questioning. This pocket allows affords us the opportunity to create, rather than simply consume.

And ultimately, this pocket provides us with moments of disequilibrium, elation, and connection to other human beings. It is this last point, that of human relationship, which in my experience is a huge factor in sustaining inquiry. That mentor-mentee relationship is critical to diving deep, creating anew, and flourishing with purpose.

And this is what flourishing with purpose might look like (Grab your cardboard VR viewer:

Projects! Projects! Projects!

Over the winter break, I spent a lot of time reading, thinking, and hanging out with my kids doing projects. I also spent a great deal of time speaking with people throughout the world as to what they think a project is. What is a project?

Based on this line of inquiry, I started to comb various media outlets to get a sense of what people were doing in the world in terms of projects that might inspire Maples Met School learners. There is a huge difference between a project and an activity or hobby. Projects come from a place of questioning, of curiosity, and of purpose.

While we all know that great projects begin with a powerful essential question that questions our role within the universe, here are links to potential final products, resources, platforms, and other supports for our inquiry:

Preserving the History of a City


Why is it important to preserve the history of a city? 


Create a Student-run Newspaper

Newspapers are critical to any democracy, as they hold governments to account. Why not connect with other writers, artists, and thinkers to create your own press!

Create Your own Solar Panel






Create a Bike Generator!


Images of Winnipeg


The Winnipeg Free Press recently published a photo essay of aerial views of the Winnipeg. What parts of the city are missing? Why? What would you include? How could you use GIS to create maps of areas of Winnipeg that are ignored? What are important areas for youth?


50 Book Pledge


The 50 Book Pledge is an amazing way to motivate yourself and also share your research with people throughout the world. No matter what essential question you’re attacking, this is a greta way of creating a digital library.


Radical History Poster Project


The Graphic History Collective has launched a project called the Radical History Poster Project. This is a fantastic way for learners to use their artistic talents to think historically (The Big 6!) about Canada, Treaty 1, and what it means to live in Red River.


Manitoba Robot Games 2018


Take a crack at the Manitoba Robot Games!


Northern Hydroponic Project


Can Flying Machines Help Save Lives?



Create Work Benches for your School’s Fabrication Lab


Hint: We need these at the Met for great projects!


Lego Crane (Why not?)


Create an interactive Periodic Table!



CBC Nonfiction Prize


What a perfect final product for a project! (And you could take home some loot!)


Mennonite Central Committee Hygiene Kits


Design a New Arlington Bridge

Banning Plastic Bags


There is some recent support for banning plastic bags in Winnipeg. This might be a really cool, authentic, and impactful project to investigate!


Imagine Portage & Main


What should Portage and Main look like? Design it!


Create Your Own Zine!


Go underground and create a zine that reflects your manifesto!


Make your own Wind Turbine!


Aquaponics System


Lots of essential questions and tangents with this project!