Blog Post

Students Use the Geo-Inquiry Process to Increase Water Access in Their Town

Students at Foulks Ranch Elementary School, with teacher and National Geographic Education Fellow Jim Bentley, completed the final phase of their Geo-Inquiry project to address the question, “How can we make water more accessible and reduce plastic waste in our parks and school?”. The students helped Cosumnes Community Services District park administrators install a bottle-filling station in Kloss Park, adjacent to their school.The Geo-Inquiry Process was developed by National Geographic Education to teach students the skills necessary to think and reason geographically. The five-step method provides students with a way to investigate and understand the world through patterns, processes, and interactions between human and natural systems, and to act on their conclusions.

"The Geo-Inquiry Process"

Students in Mr. Bentley’s 6th-grade class were inspired to focus on water access and reducing plastic waste in their community after reading A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, a novel about South Sudan. After conducting a survey of water availability in the City of Elk Grove, the students discovered there weren’t any water bottle-filling stations in their community. Motivated by their findings, they recommended seven locations for station placements to the Cosumnes Community Services District. Kloss Park was selected by park administrators from their recommendations.

Photograph courtesy Elk Grove Unified School District

“My students have felt a sense of empowerment that the things they have learned and the work they’ve done have actually resulted in adults doing something that they wouldn’t have otherwise done,” said Bentley.

Bentley was one of more than 100 middle-school educators who gathered at National Geographic headquarters last year to learn from experts, explorers, and National Geographic staff how to use the Geo-Inquiry Process in the classroom.

A Geo-Inquiry Ambassador, Bentley was also selected to serve as a National Geographic Education Fellow.

“Ultimately, the fellowship has changed the perspective with which I view any subject—including math, writing, reading, science. It’s a new lens to view content with. You think more about the actions associated with their learning as opposed to just learning the content in isolation.”

National Geographic says Bentley's project exemplifies the Geo-Inquiry Process.

"Jim has been an incredibly enthusiastic ambassador of our Geo-Inquiry Process. His students' water fountain installation is exactly what we envisioned when we developed the process. Geo-Inquiry helps students to identify and understand complex problems in their communities, come up with smart solutions, and take some kind of concrete action around those solutions" said Kim Hulse, Vice President, Education Programs, at National Geographic Society.

“This has been an unbelievable learning experience in my 21 years of teaching, and that’s putting it mildly,” said Bentley.

Later this summer, 56 educators from all across the country will be training in the Geo-Inquiry Process. Click here to bring the process into your classroom.

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.