Purposeful inquiry is a powerful vehicle for learning which promotes genuine understanding and challenges the students to engage in important ideas. Concepts are universal, timeless, abstract, and move students toward higher levels of thinking. Concepts are broad ideas that transcend the perspectives and limits of any specific subject-area. A concept is something that can be taught in any classroom, no matter what the content includes. The IB PYP develops eight key concepts in its units of inquiry:


These Key Concepts are supported by related concepts in the central ideas of each unit of inquiry. The central ideas and units of inquiry develop understanding of concepts. Topics are ancillary to the inquiry.

Central Idea Examples:
  1. People migrate to meet a variety of needs
  2. Migration may lead to enhanced opportunity or greater freedom

Topic Examples: Western Migration, Gold Rush

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Related Concepts:
Features, Cycles, Family, Culture, Properties, Patterns, Structure, Operations, Similarities and Differences, Independence, Relationships, Diversity, Roles, Choice, Opportunities, Adaptation, Creativity, Imagination, Communication, Consumption, Energy, Water Cycle, Money, Exchange, Needs, Identity, Innovation, Geography, Emotions, Self Expression, Classification, Life Cycle, Source, Waste, Consumption, Balance, Nutrition, Education, Messages, Interpretations, Genre, Efficiency, Mechanics, Production, Sustainability, Interdependence, Continuity, Progress, Technology, Improvisation, Interpretation, Weather, Climate, Networks, Facilities, Respect, Justice, Legislation, Communities, Population, Borders, Rights, Roles, Chronology, Change, Migration, Exploration, Discovery, Music in Society, Arts in Diverse Cultures, History, Tradition, Celebration, Appreciation, Harmony, Beliefs, Values, Attitudes, Friction, Gravity, Air, Resistance, Efficiency, Application of Scientific Understanding, Study of Forces, Production, Employment, Citizenship, Systems, Conservation, Equity, Animals, Biodiversity, Plants, Photosynthesis, Germination, Seed Dispersal, Soil Erosion, Opinions, Impact, Creativity, Sensitivity, Measurement, Transformation, Responsibility, Government or Governance, Growth, Trade, Expression, Roles, Observation, Progress, Consequences, Supply and Demand, Needs, Opportunity, Freedom

Concepts for Science:
Interdependence, Exploration, Transformation, System, Community, Evolution, Change, Organization, Property, Space, Movement, Population, Diversity, Pattern, Cycle, Discovery, Organism, Force, Conservation, Resources, Relationships, Biodiversity, Adaptation, Environment, Matter, Energy, Habitat, Health, Dependence

Concepts for Social Studies:
Place, Location, Conflict, Patterns, Systems, Culture, Civilization, History, Interdependence, Cooperation, Populations, Change, Evolution, Migration, Immigration, Time, Interaction, Relationships, Organization, Community, Homes, Journeys, Landforms, Physical Environment, Rural/Urban/Suburban, Natural Resources, Geographical Patterns, Settlement Patterns, Natural Disasters, Government Systems, Rights, Responsibility, Perspective, Power, Citizenship, Roles, Society, Authority, Freedom, Diversity, Values, Beliefs, Tradition, Celebration, Laws/Rules, Revolution, Goods/Services, Needs/Wants, Opportunity, Supply/Demand, Competition, Dependence, Choice, Resources, Consumers/Producers, Exchange, Trade, Imports/Exports, Labor, Money, Markets, Price, Cost, Wages/Income, Innovation, Exploration, Discovery

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Central Idea: Should be specific enough to know what is being studied. Contains 2 concepts and maybe 3 in a central idea. Can be key concept or related concepts, not topics. They should be joined by a powerful verb. No is or are in central idea.

Central Idea:
  • Is written as a statement
  • Is worth knowing
  • Is true
  • Leaves room for questioning
  • Is not value laden
  • Is globally transferable
  • Can be studied at any age
  • Has a degree of ambiguity
  • Promotes discovery and critical thinking
  • Connects concepts

Writing Central Ideas:
  • Strong Action Phrases
  • Concept Verb Concept
  • Connectors: Action Verb

Sample verbs for connecting concepts:
achieve, accelerate, accomplish, acquire, activate, adapt, address, adjust, administer, allocate, anticipate, approve, arrange, ascertain, assemble, assess, assign, assimilate, assist, assure, attain, attend, balance, bring about, build, calculate, challenge, chart, check, clarify, classify, collect, command, communicate, compile, compose, compute, conceive, condense, conduct, conserve, consolidate, construct, convert, convey, cooperate, coordinate, correlate, correspond, create, cultivate, deal, decide, define, delegate, deliver, demonstrate, design, detect, determine, develop, devise, direct, discover, display, distribute, document, draft, dramatize, draw, draw up, drive, earn, edit, elaborate, eliminate, empathize, employ, enact, encourage, enforce, engineer, enhance, enlist, ensure, equip, establish, estimate, evaluate, examine, execute, expand, expedite, experiment, explain, express, facilitate, fashion, finance, fix, follow, forecast, forge, form, formulate, gain, gather, give, generate, govern, guide, handle, help, hypothesize, identify, illustrate, imagine, implement, improve on, improvise, increase, inform, initiate, innovate, inspect, inspire, install, instill, institute, instruct, insure/ensure, integrate, interpret, introduce, invent, investigate, judge, justify, keep, kindle, launch, learn, lead, lift, listen to, locate, make, maintain, manage, manipulate, market, master, mediate, memorize, mentor, meet, minimize, model, monitor, motivate, move, navigate, negotiate, nominate, observe, obtain, offer, optimize, orchestrate, order, organize, originate, overcome, oversee, paint, participate, perceive, perfect, perform, persuade, photograph, pilot, pioneer, place, plan, play, predict, prepare, prescribe, present, prevent, problem solve, process, procure, project, promote, propose, protect, prove, provide, publicize, purchase, question, raise, read, realize, reason, receive, recognize, recommend, reconcile, record, recruit, rectify, redesign, reduce, re-evaluate, refer, refine, regulate, relate, remember, render, reorganize, repair, report, represent, resolve, respond, restore, retrieve, revitalize, schedule, screen, secure, select, sense, separate, serve, shape, shift, show, simplify, solidify, solve, sort, spearhead, stimulate, streamline, strengthen, structure, symbolize, talk, teach, tell, trace, transform, uncover, unify, unite, utilize, validate, verify, widen, withdraw, work, write

Lines of Inquiry
  1. Unpack the central idea
  2. Three or four lines if inquiry
  3. Define the scope of the inquiry
  4. Extend the inquiry
  5. Focus student research
  6. Deepen student understanding
  7. Connections should be made where appropriate