With Walter Ndjibu and Rubens Mukunzi

Approved by the state Board of Regents last year, Charter School of Inquiry (CSI) is a new charter school with the mission to achieve breakthrough outcomes for the City of Buffalo children in Kindergarten, through 6 grade by applying an inquiry-based teaching technique with an intensive focus on learning to write and write well in all subject areas. One of the school’s unique values is its exceptional high quality education using intentional reading and language development, aligned curriculum, engaging inquiry-based practices and an outstanding system of support.

Karibu News: Dr. Griffin, thank you for having us in your school. What prompted you to start Charter School of Inquiry?

Dr. Griffin: Thank you. Charter School of inquiry is a sort of response to what we think is lacking in existing ways of teaching. The lack of students’ real engagement in what the teacher is teaching. “Actually, what happens is that you would have a teacher teaching and providing all kind of information and students are just there sitting down absorbing all the preconceived information the teacher is providing. With the inquiry-based learning, we pay attention to the questions students are trying to answer or understand. We orient the teaching to what the student strives to know.

Since you do not know in the teaching process what kind of questions a student would ask, how would you prepare to that?

Our teachers do not know everything but they know much, they are qualified and certified to answer students’ question,” she said. If in the middle of a teaching process a student asks a question about a different subject, the teacher will stop his subject matter in order to answer the student’ question and provided related information about the question.

How do you assess the progress, although it is early?

First, the success is based on the type teaching we are providing to our students. The inquiry-based learning helps kids not only know what comes from the teacher but also many unanswered questions that come into their mind. As you know, kids are very inquisitive and we should not ignore all the questions they struggling with in their mind. Again, I told you that we have a very qualified staff and out board is very responsible and committed to enhancing the success of the school. We make sure that children we will be adding each year until 6 grade make a real difference. Another sign of success is parents’ feedback. Parents are happy with what they see from their students and others in the neighborhood have promised to get their children enrolled into our programs.

So, we can take that as a positive step.

Of course, a rigorous inquiry-based teaching in which students learn through raising questions and conducting investigation and obtaining the results is in itself a very effective program for our kids. The other thing is the literacy. It enables kids to read fluently and develop good comprehension by the end of third grade.

As a start-up school, what are the challenges?

Every beginning is difficult. We need to get ourselves known. Although we have an effective program that provides kids an effective academic growth, people would always ask questions as to whether we are effective because we are new. At this early stage, people will be hesitant until we become well known. It is a reality and we are working hard to make parents know that we are here and committed to responding to various academic questions their kids might have.   

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