The Right to Inquire


Our fifth graders are almost halfway into their Exhibition.  Today was all about our rights and our responsibilities as inquirers.  Specifically:

What are my rights and responsibilities as an inquirer?

We shared three TED talks with our class thanks to my friend and former colleague in Japan who is also working on the Exhibition at the moment.  The videos were chosen by her to showcase presentation skills – and that is what they started being for us too.  What we found as we watched them, however, was that there was a lot more we could get out of them. 

Adora Svitak

Thomas Suarez

Birke Baehr

As we discussed the videos we started noticing some themes in all three:

  • the kids were incredibly passionate
  • there was a great mix of ‘things I googled’ and ‘things I found out for myself’
  • everyone did something
  • no one was ‘finished’ at the time of their talk
  • everyone had future plans, bigger plans, more amazing dreams
  • everyone wanted adults to take them seriously
  • everyone wanted the respect and freedom to think, inquire and learn through their passion

Our kids are amazing and have been doing awesome work but this is a very different shift from how things have been done and we are (for our school at least) really shaking things up and giving kids the freedom to do and be and think and create – and to live out their passion. Most are handling – even thriving on – the challenge. Some are less sure.  Less confident and teetering on not grabbing hold of this opportunity with both hands.  They want the freedom, the rights, the respect – but not necessarily to work ‘too’ hard.

So, we had “the talk”.

It went something like this:

“We heard the kids in the videos trying to convince adults they they should listen to kids more, trust kids more, let kids choose more – and we acted on it. We believe every word they said and we believe in you.  We trust you.  We respect you.   We think you have it in you to do amazing things – on top of all the amazing things you currently do! We love that you get to come to school and we get to help you explore your passion, connect you with people who also share your passion, support you as you pursue the thing that makes you, you.

JFK was quoted as saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected”.  This is true for you today, during our Exhibition and beyond.  You have been given a great opportunity to inquire, to explore, to create new understandings, banish false ideas and blaze fresh paths.  You have our trust, our support, our time and our belief that you can do hard things, amazing things, life-changing things.

How will you choose to use this opportunity?


The class was quiet.  There was 30 minutes of the day left at this point and almost the whole day up to now had been spent reflecting on the videos, our group and ourselves as inquirers, thinkers, learners. The task was given to reflect on the idea of ‘responsibility’ and you could hear a pin drop amongst the tapping of keyboards and the scratching away at paper.  I haven’t read their reflections yet – many are finishing them tonight – and I can’t wait to see their plans for the second half of the Exhibition.


Our kids, like yours, will move mountains.


About Sonya terBorg

A mom, educator, designer, creator. I care about kindness, representation, equality, and making a positive contribution. I began teaching in 1997 in New Zealand and have since taught from G1 through G10 in 4 continents.
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4 Responses to The Right to Inquire

  1. kathmurdoch says:

    It would be so great to hear about what your kids said in response to this powerful question. I love the way this both inspires but ‘raises the bar’ of expectation and independence – and how you can potentially co-constructs criteria for the evaluation of a really successful exhibition. Thanks for sharing


    • sonyaterborg says:

      I am excited to hear back from them too! As we were talking yesterday, there was some serious head-nodding. We have gone through the ‘honeymoon’ phase of amazing field trips, guest speakers, mini workshops, and first mentor meetings (will anyone ever tire of watching a charged up fifth grader head their first ‘appointment with my mentor’ clutching their binders/laptops with that excited death-grip!) and are getting into the ‘guts’ of the exhibition. I can’t wait to see what’s next! Will be happy to share!


  2. whatedsaid says:

    Hi Sonya
    Welcome to Inquire Within! I love your first post and plan to share it with teachers at my school prior to our Year 6 exhibition next term. Would love to see your students’ reflections!


  3. Pingback: The Right To Inquire – Part Two | Inquire Within

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