challenged to ask good questions, to design effective investigations, and to carefully craft our explanations of what we found as we explored the watershed in southern Colorado—these experiences demonstrated the complexity and importance of learning to do science as well as learning about science. Another important step forward came when I appreciated the significance of focusing on the “big ideas” in physics. For example, I had planned to teach a physics unit on energy, and I decided to look more deeply into the subject. In the course of the reading I did as part of the program, I gained a much deeper understanding of the relationships among the storage, transfer, transformations, and conservation of energy. As I reflected on my past teaching, I realized that I had taught this subject in a piecemeal manner, jumping from one topic to the next. I never gave my students this broad vision of physics because I never had it myself.
My greater understanding of energy became the basis for a unit that was, without question, the most effective I had ever taught up to that time. I sought to have my students use inquiry to understand about energy conservation, different kinds of energy, and energy transformation. For example, I used a relatively open-ended laboratory in which I brought in a large “Rube Goldberg” contraption in which various bells and whistles were activated as balls and other devices were in motion. I asked the students to identify some questions they had about what was going on in the contraption related to energy, thinking about ideas of energy conservation, different kinds of energy, and energy transformation that we had been studying. They also identified how they thought they could answer their questions, what experiments they could design, and data they could collect that would provide sufficient evidence to explain what was happening. It was obvious from the high level of student engagement in their investigations and from their performance and feedback that they were making sense of the physics concepts and building their inquiry skills simultaneously. Teaching to the “big ideas” of physics through inquiry also helped me implement my