Investigate, Discover & Design: Developing Critical Thinking Skills through Sci & Eng I, II & III

In this hands-on series of courses designed for students in Kindergarten through grade 4, students engage in experiments, activities, or design challenge elements during every class. Their investigations reveal conceptual foundations in biology, chemistry, physics, medical and environmental sciences and the various engineering fields. Importantly, carefully guided facilitation gives students the opportunity to identify those concepts, rather than be told them first! Students explore topics including:

  • nanotechnology/biomimicry

  • computer programming

  • neurobiology

  • anatomy and physiology

  • microbiology

  • environmental science

  • astronomy

  • physics

  • applied physics

  • chemistry

  • mechanical and electrical engineering

Each grade grouping (e.g., grades 1-2, 3-4) offers a two-year, graduated curriculum and is geared towards different degrees of sophistication and depth. Topics are undertaken in a thoughtful and age-appropriate manner. They are also foundations for our more specialized classes.

As students observe, record (through writing, pictures photographs, role play), design and test, they organically develop the habits, practices, mindset and vocabularies of scientists and engineers. Importantly, they have a joyful time doing so. Through this tour-de-force of experimentation, activities and design challenges, students develop critical and creative thinking skills, which they apply to all learning.

With one exciting experiment or activity after another, they become comfortable:

  • asking critical questions

  • formulating simple hypotheses

  • collecting evidence

  • beginning to explore how to control for variables

  • drawing basic conclusions

  • sharing what they have learned and a lot more.

  • During engineering challenges, students become adept at:

  • using their imaginations

  • exploring other ways in which the particular challenge has been addressed in the past (basic research)

  • taking risks and learning the value of making mistakes

  • designing and developing models

  • testing and evaluating

  • refining their solutions

The learning focus is on the “how’s” and “why’s” rather than a “what” - based rote learning. 

This year a group of third-graders confidently explained the results of a spectrophotometry chart to their parents amazement while presenting their lab results about atomic emissions spectra of specific elements. Part of helping them to develop this level of understanding involved: establishing and supporting accessibility to observation-based learning objectives, learning how to support one another's learning on teams, investigating chemistry and physics building blocks, and routine goldfish and fruit breaks. --IDD III Instructor


Students learn abstract concepts via tangible means. The integrated STEM content provides context for meaningful learning. And, the inquiry-based method of engaging students develops their critical thinking skills. They develop a vocabulary to convey their understanding over time.

Site visits and visiting specialists! The Ti2 team engages individuals from area research institutions and industries to inspire our students with current research and career possibilities in science and engineering.

Learning entry points include the use of storytelling, fiction and nonfiction literature and art.