What are Essential Questions?

Essential questions are a powerful driver for discussion-based inquiry, particularly in the Humanities. These guideposts help students process and prioritize what they are learning, and provide a firm bridge for Humanities lessons to integrate with other disciplines. Part 1 of The Peck School's 2015 Strategic Plan, Integrated and Inspirational Learning, aspires to emphasize discussion-based inquiry by providing a natural flow between disciplines, and aligning curricular initiatives.

At Peck, each grade level has been given one overarching essential question to guide them as they encounter increasingly complex ideas over the course of the year. The questions range from “How do we learn?” in the Kindergarten, to “How does one make a difference in the community?” in the eighth grade. Though these questions primarily drive inquiry in the humanities and Peck’s character development program (InDeCoRe), faculty members in other disciplines may also use them as guideposts to learning.

Chris Weaver, Director of Curriculum and Faculty Development

In any given subject, there is an infinite amount of content that can be learned. What’s nice about essential questions is that it gives students a handle to hold onto. For example, if we are studying the Civil Rights Movement, and our essential question is, ‘How do people face challenges?’ then we can learn about and look at the movement through that particular lens. They can better empathize with the subject matter and delve as much into the depth of the content as the breadth.
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