What does that mean? Investigative Learning

imagesI am a person who is curious. Curious about many things, but I am always curious about words and phrases and their origin. The word for that is called etymology. This word [etymology] is composed of two parts: the Greek word etymon, which means “the true sense of a word”, combined with the Greek element logia, which means “doctrine, study”. Combining these two parts gives us “the study of the true sense of words”, which can be said to be the ‘meaning’ of the word etymology.(source Behind the Name)

I spoke at the CHEC Orientation program yesterday and when I introduced myself I mentioned that I have a BS in Elementary Education and how I thought it strange you have 2 letters (B and S) for your degree. My unspoken thoughts were, “Why not something else? Why did they assign those letters? Why the combination of  the two words, Bachelor and Science? I didn’t even take that many courses in science!”

Why do people get a BA (Bachelor of Arts) when the only difference that I know of is that those students are required to take a foreign language. I don’t think many students who receive a BA have much more art than a BS student. I realized that was a rabbit trail, and I didn’t go down that trail when I spoke.  I am sure I didn’t clearly explain what I was thinking either! This was weighing on my mind so when I awoke today I was going to find out how exactly those letters (BS and BA) attached to college degrees actually meant.

“What is my point?”  It is this: curiosity is a good thing! It drives us to think beyond what is given to us and causes us to question and investigate. Isn’t this what we want our children to be doing as we teach them? Yes, it takes some time to go on rabbit trails, but it also what learning is about, going beyond the pages of a textbook.

So, how do you help a student who is curious about things? How do you help a student (like myself) who goes down rabbit trails easily and wanders off when work still needs to be done? How about keeping a running list of topics, ideas or words nearby so that when questions arise they can be investigated during free time. If you have a visual student you could put the list on large easel paper and put on the wall. If not, keep a clipboard near your desk and write down the questions to be investigated later. See, keeping your student on track while also validating that curiosity.

Research is an extremely important skill to be cultivated in our students, and frankly I find it makes the school day interesting. If you have younger students you may have to do the research and if there have been a million questions, pick the ones that are truly worth checking out.

What if you don’t have a student who is naturally curious? You could post a “Question of the Day” about topics you are studying. Allow 10 minutes of investigative time during your language arts class or assign it as part of their “homework” after your school day is finished.

Here are some questions to consider if your student isn’t naturally curious. Why is the sky blue? Why do we have bumps on our tongue? From where did the word onomatopoeia come? Does a house centipede really have all those legs? (eww!) Why do we yawn? How far is it to the moon? What is your name’s meaning? How far is it to Grandma’s house? How long would it take to get there if we drove, if we walked? Answering questions many times leads to other questions, which is a good thing!

Plan a time to discuss the answers that have been researched as that not only gives your student an opportunity to summarize and synthesize what they have discovered, but also sends a message that this is important in relation to life and learning. You can either makes these investigations part of your dinner conversations or as part of your school routine.


Okay, who is curious to know what I discovered about the academic degrees BS and BA? 🙂 I found several answers about the word bachelor.

The first answer I found was this one. eHow states, ” Initially, universities were attended by three distinct types of  individuals: attendees who listened, students who participated in discussions, and teachers who delivered the lectures. they were called scholars, bachelors, and masters respectively. Of French origin, the title is derived from knight known as, ‘chevalier bachelier” who committed himself to battle. Eventually, this phrase would designate the humblest of university students.” I love it!

The second answer I found came from elearnportal. ” Bachiler came to mean “an apprentice student,” or a student completing an initial level of training.  It was from this usage of the word that came the meaning of a young man in the service or working as an apprentice to a knight or skillsman in order to gain greater knowledge of a field.  Individuals of this status were not considered to have a mastery of the given field of study.

To grasp the final transformation, we must take a brief look at the common equivalent to the bachelor’s degree: baccalaureate. The term baccalaureate originated from the 17th century Latin word baccalaureus, meaning “student with the first degree.” In fact, baccalaureus is actually play on the Latin phrase for ‘laurel berries,’ or bacca lauri.   Laurel berries were presented as a prize at the Pythian Games, an athletic competition of ancient Greece.  Since this occasion, wreaths of laurels have been associated with great honor and academic achievement. ”

I also saw in my reading today that the Bachelor of Science is Bachelor of Behavioral Science, shortened somewhere along the line. Aha! This is making more sense! It doesn’t apply to “science” as I know it, no test tubes and dissections. A Bachelor of Arts degree has been shortened from Bachelor of Liberal Arts. That is probably why those who have a BA had to take a foreign language (liberal- broad) and those who did not have a BS. Now I know and you do too! I can rest easier today knowing that the letters (BS) I put down as a credential mean more than I had originally thought. 🙂 Now I wonder we get the term “degree” and why behavioral science?. ..


2 thoughts on “What does that mean? Investigative Learning

  1. I love rabbit trails and wish I could take them more often. Creating a life long learner is a primary goal. Interesting post. Thank You. KB


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