In this study, we seek a better understanding of how individuals and their daily interactions shape and reshape social structures that constitute a classroom community. Moreover, we provide insight into how discourse and classroom interactions shape the nature of a learning community, as well as which aspects of the classroom culture may be consequential for learning. The participants in this study include two teachers who are implementing a new environmental science program, Global Learning through Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE), and interacting with 54 children in an urban middle school. Both qualitative and quantitative data are analyzed and presented. To gain a better understanding of the inquiry teaching within classroom communities, we compare and contrast the discourse and interactions of the two teachers during three parallel environmental science lessons. The focus of our analysis includes (1) how the community identifies the object or goal of its activity; and (2) how the rights, rules, and roles for members are established and inhabited in interaction. Quantitative analyses of student pre- and posttests suggest greater learning for students in one classroom over the other, providing support for the influence of the classroom community and interactional choices of the teacher on student learning. Implications of the findings from this study are discussed in the context of curricular design, professional development, and educational reform. ? 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 41: 905-935, 2004.