At Gimnasio de Los Cerros School, students follow a Spanish-English bilingual program which includes a science course from grade K to six which is divided in four major units: life science, earth science, physical science, and human body. This science course has been taught for many years by means of a traditional teacher-centered methodology of lectures and readings which places students in a passive rather than an active role that hinders autonomous learning. The current science classes are teacher-focused and revolve around giving out information about what is known. The emphasis is on the student's ability to recall facts and master the material in the science textbooks so that they may proceed to the next grade level. Students have become only recipients of science knowledge and therefore they are not given opportunities to study science in a way that encourages them to start becoming more autonomous learners. Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today's world. Facts are constantly changing and thanks to our digital age, we are overwhelmed with information. The traditional learning approach used to teach science does not provide students the skills needed for this new age of information and does not exercise the ability to examine and make sense of this avalanche of data.
During my experience teaching science classes in English to students from grades K to five at this bilingual school, I have observed what I consider a serious problem: this traditional teacher-centered methodology used to teach science lessons does not help to develop students’ autonomy awareness as expected and it does not help to promote interest and positive attitudes toward science in students, since they do not take an active role in their science learning by asking questions or by carrying out science hands-on activities that lead them to have real experiences that enhance classroom learning, improved understanding and enjoyment of science. Due to this fact, and taking into account that students who actively make observations, collect, analyze and synthesize information, and draw conclusions are more likely to increase their autonomy awareness and develop the critical skills that they will need later on, I decided to carry out a qualitative and quantitative action research study in order to find out whether the implementation of an inquiry-based learning unit about the systems of the human body could help students increase their autonomy awareness within a more student-centered environment.