Introduction to the Inquiry Project

Welcome to our new Inquiry Project Series! Through the months of February and June, we’ll share the story of our Learning Exchange with the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Together we’re learning what becomes possible when young people explore what they want to learn and design their own learning.

Join our learning journey on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where we’ll share new posts every week and new video episodes at the end of the month. Our first video episode premieres on Monday, February 22nd at 10am MT!

What becomes possible when young people are supported in exploring what they want to learn, building community connections, and designing their own mentorship projects? Join us and discover the possibilities in our new Inquiry Project Series, a social media series highlighting our new Learning Exchange partnership with the Inspired Teaching Demonstration Public Charter School (ITDS) in Washington, D.C.

The Inquiry Project emerged from the Academy and ITDS’s shared desire of awakening a natural love of learning in young people, educators, and their communities through experiential and transformational learning. We’re bringing our shared desire to life in the Inquiry Project.

The Inquiry Project invites 7th and 8th grade learners to explore their imagination and what they want to learn by developing self-led mentorship projects and building community connections. In the Inquiry Project Series, we’ll share how learners are creating and building their projects while practicing reflection and critical thinking. We’ll also share how the community around learners, mentors, parents, and educators, experience their own learning journeys and come alive by witnessing learners engage with their Inquiry Projects. The series will also present tools and resources for developing an Inquiry Project in any school or community.

Throughout the series, the Academy and ITDS will explore two learning questions:

  • What becomes possible when young people are supported in pursuing their passions?
  • How do young people, parents, educators, and others catalyze their imaginations to create a movement to transform learning?

In following the learning journeys of learners, mentors, parents, and educators, we hope to find emerging answers to these questions.

February Learning Themes: Introduction to the Inquiry Project and Who Are the Inquirers? 

In the first month of the Inquiry Project Series, we are introducing the learners and parents as they embark on their learning journeys and develop their projects. Meet the learners and check out snapshots of some of their projects!

  • Beckett, 8th grade, Project: Rainforests
  • Kennedy, 7th grade, Project: Journalism
  • Maya, 8th grade, Project: Memoir writing
Iris, 7th grade, Project: Environmental action


Mercer, 7th grade, Project: Jewelry-making


Zachary, 7th grade, Project: Graphic design


Alexis, 7th grade, Project: Dog training

In the beginning stages of the Inquiry Project, learners are simultaneously brainstorming their mentorship projects and finding possible mentors through interviewing experts in their fields of interest. Before selecting a project design or mentor, learners reflect and journal to make a self-guided decision on how to move forward. In journaling, learners practice critical thinking, alignment sensing, and discernment by asking themselves does this project idea or mentor work for me?

To learn more about how learners are stepping into the Inquiry Project experience, we interviewed learners and their parents about their thoughts on the project. Learners shared that they were excited to follow long-held interests that aren’t topics of exploration in school. While parents shared that they were drawn to the Inquiry Project because of the opportunity for learners to practice self-led learning while also developing a deeper sense of self and confidence. Both learners and parents shared the viewpoint of learning being a lifelong practice that isn’t limited to the four walls of a school or an experience that concludes with formal education. An important aspect of learning, both learners and parents shared, is figuring out how to recognize and follow one’s interests and develop a project, new connection, or sense of purpose out of that exploration.

Here are interview highlights from…


  • “I’m looking forward to meeting new people like experts. I think that will be a really cool experience to learn more about what I’m passionate about…I want to explore how people’s everyday purchases impact the rainforest.” — Beckett, 8th grade learner 
  • “[My Inquiry Project interest in the environment] started as something that I didn’t even look up [on the internet]. It was like, oh, I like to go hiking, and I like to go backpacking…It started without looking things up and just me accidentally falling into loving the outdoors and gardening and following that.” — Iris, 7th grade learner
  • “[The Inquiry Project gives me the chance to] do something I like, so why not [participate]? It’s fun, and I like making jewelry….I want to get more things under my belt like learn how to do earrings. I usually make pendants and I haven’t stepped out of making pendants. I made a chain once…I haven’t stepped out of that box yet.” — Mercer, 7th grade learner
  • “It sounded interesting to be able to take some time and really go into depth about a certain topic. I chose journalism because I like finding out information and reading the newspaper from time to time. I like writing too, so I thought journalism would be helpful for that.” — Kennedy, 7th grade learner


  • “The whole learning while working through discovery I thought was cool. When he [Mr.Biderman] presented that opportunity to Kennedy, she thought about the journalism piece and writing, researching, and finding out – the whole process of that profession – I was like cool. Let’s do it!” — Andrew
  • “Giving people opportunities to do this, self-directed learning, can spur the realization that I can be in charge of my own inquiry. If I’m interested in something, I can pursue it. I can read a book about it. I can join a club. I have that realization that learning doesn’t stop, and it’s not just limited to school…when you get students invested in the learning that they are doing, that’s obviously more meaningful for them and they learn more from that. It’s more memorable. Who cares what you can remember for tests. The experience of doing a project that is meaningful to you and is more meaningful over time.” — Gayle
  • “I think any expansion of opportunity that he can be provided with is important…I think it’s important to know how to do research, how to look into something you’re interested in and sometimes how to look into something that you’re not interested in. Because there’s a technique to that. And once you get that down you can look into anything.” — Nikole
  • “[The Inquiry Project is a] great opportunity to follow your interests and see where it takes you. There’s a lot of value in being able to think about what you’re interested in and framing out the boundaries of the project.” — Rick

The Inquiry Project is beginning to build a pathway for learners to practice self-driven learning that connects with their sense of curiosity and purpose. Throughout the series, we’ll trace how supporting self-driven learning might shift views on learning and education across a community while also developing insights on the future of learning, schools, and school outside of school.

Series Learning Theme Schedule

Join our learning journey by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter where we’ll share new posts every week and new video episodes at the end of the month. Our first video episode will premiere on Monday, February 22nd 10am MT. The full series theme schedule is below.



February Reflection
Here’s a monthly reflection to ponder as you reflect and learn with us this month. If you could explore what you want to learn or what captures your imagination, what would you explore? How would you start your learning journey? Share your February reflection in our short survey here!

Thank you for joining our Inquiry Project Series learning journey!