Tips on How to Collect Questions for ON-AIR

I begin class with a discussion on some of the topics that will be covered during the broadcast. (UPDATES carries a preview of the content and sequences a few days in advance: this gives me, as a teacher, a heads-up even if I'm watching live.) This helps get students thinking about questions and also gives them enough information to ask questions.

We also discuss what type of question you would ask a scientist. I give them examples which can be drawn from previous projects, or RESEARCHER Q&A, and discuss the different tips for asking a good question.

Each student is given an index card. I give them about ten minutes to write down a question. They can brainstorm with other students at their lab table and often lab partners will submit a question together.

After they have written their questions we brainstorm as a class. I have volunteers read their questions and we discuss them. Instead of rejecting questions, or saying that isn't a "good" question, we brainstorm together to rewrite them into one that would be acceptable to use.

I collect all the index cards--make sure names are on all the cards. On the day of the broadcast I flip through the cards to locate the best questions to submit based on how the program is going, and the other questions coming in from around the nation. I also will submit questions from students who could use that special honor and motivation of having a scientist answer their question. Having the questions on the cards makes it easier to submit my questions in a short period of time.

The day after the broadcast, I read the questions that were submitted and the answers to each of my classes. The students whose questions were submitted are given a copy of the message to keep. The students include their e-mail messages in their WEATHERLogs and sometimes I give extra credit points on their project grade.

I usually dedicate a class period to do this. I feel the process of writing a good question is equally as important as the factual content of the answers. We put together our questions during the week before the broadcast and I continue to accept additional questions up to the day of the broadcast.

During LIVE FROM THE RAINFOREST my students researched a plant or animal in the rainforest for their "A Day in the Life..." reports. Many of them still had questions they were not able to answer during their research. They were thrilled to be able to submit these questions and receive answers from scientists at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC!

Eileen Bendixsen
7th grade integrated science
Hazlet Middle School, Hazlet, NJ