Inquiry based plans are those that evolve out of children’s interests. Rather than having a set curriculum plan, based on traditional themes over the course of the year, inquiry programs follow the lead of the child. This does not mean that there is no plan for the day, it just means that the plans cannot be written a year in advance. When I first started this approach I was scared to let go and follow the children’s lead! What of I didn’t know enough about dinosaurs, space, insects, etc? Over the years I have found that it really doesn’t matter because I am learning right alongside the children and I am usually amazed at how much they already know about a topic; ultimately teaching me in the process.
So while I know that space is an abstract concept for preschoolers that is what we have spent the last month learning about! I always start my inquiry with a “WHAT DO WE KNOW” chart. It is a simple sheet of paper where I ask the children to tell me everything they know about a topic. I write down every word they say and then we go back over the words I wrote, crossing out anything that has been repeated (Literacy/Math/Graphing/Language).
Then I spend the next day or so gathering information, scouring Pinterest, and checking out books at my local library. I then begin to present our topic, allowing and encouraging the children to add to the information as necessary. I follow the children’s lead as to how long a topic will continue (Space lasted almost a month). When I observe that interest is waning I start all over with another inquiry chart.
The biggest question I get from parent’s is “ARE THEY LEARNING ACADEMIC CONCEPTS? WILL BE READY FOR KINDERGARTEN?” I will allow the photo documentation to speak for itself!
Making space sand. The children made up their own recipe to create this black concoction of sand, soap, and cornstarch. They added jewels as space rocks. (Science/Math/Sensory)
Building rocket ships with loose parts. Magnatiles and alphabet blocks were used to recreate rockets. If you look closely you can even see the stuffed puppy along for the space flight. (Spatial Understanding/Engineering/Math/Blocks)
Art activities ranged from solar systems to space hats, mainly based on books we read. (Art/Language/Literacy)
Using color paddles to create reflections. We learned that the sun is necessary to break up light in order to show rainbows in water droplets, prisms, and reflective surfaces. (Science/Color Chemistry/Social Sciences)
Using the light table to observe colored rocks, and comparing them to our printed literature. (Literacy/Science/Ordinal Numbers/Math/Patterning)
Dramatic play was enhanced by making our own jet packs and space helmets. Every child was an astronaut for a day. (Art/Small Motor Skills/Creativity)
Building rockets on the light table. We learned that astronauts do a lot of their work in the dark. Turning off the lights and working like an astronaut was a special treat. (3 Dimensional Objects/Math/Size seriation/Dramatic Play)
Taking it outside, the children made rockets with large bricks as well as a cardboard box. They were able to get two children at a time in their box rocket, and made sure everyone took turns being a space guy. (Block Play/Outdoor Activities/Engineering/Cooperation/Team Work)
Once they were finished with the box as a space ship they turned it into a tunnel, showing me they were ready to move on to a new topic. (Inquiry BAsed Lessons)
Now I am off to learn everything I can about Postal Workers and how mail is delivered. We may even learn about the Pony Express!