Inquiry based learning in the early years
Children love to inquire! It is one of the ways in which they understand themselves and the world around them. These inquiries and questions work as an essential tool for teachers to encourage and enhance children’s thinking and learning.
As educators we need to feed these curious minds and offer them opportunities to develop essential and complex skills. When children are encouraged to question and investigate, they feel independent and responsible of their own learnings. Inquiry-based approaches to learning, hone and shape a nature of investigation, and as a result it creates an interesting, engaging and meaningful curriculum that uses children’s interests and questions as a starting point for effective learning in order to create an enduring understanding.
Through the past year, we have delved into challenging units – All living things go through a process of change. The children were interactive and quick witted. They enjoyed analysing the features of living and non living things. They pondered over the intricacies of an egg and an avocado – its similarities and differences and where they come from. We planted an avocado seed and patiently waited for it to grow and it did infact many months later. The elation and thrill in the eyes of the children was priceless! We also indulged in creative activities to strengthen our learnings like cutting up pictures of living and non-living things from magazines and sorting them correctly. It got more exciting as the Unit progressed. We inquired into the life cycle of a plant. We sowed the Black eyed beans, watched them sprout, admired how it grew so beautifully. We illustrated our observations and investigated in to what our plants needed to live and grow. We planted a potato and saw it grow magically. The little curious beings compared how a plant can grow from a seed as well as a root vegetable. We got a fabulous opportunity to see caterpillars and pupas and pictures of a variety of butterflies that live in the city of Mumbai. It has been an exciting journey of questions and answers as we learned about different living organisms and the different stages of their growth, how they change and the factors that influence the change.
Our little inquiring minds also engaged themselves in a new learning adventure as we explored the central idea of how We need to minimize the impact of wastage and pollution on the environment. We explored the detriment of Water Pollution on our environment and how we can help prevent it. The children thought over pictures depicting various pollutants harming our environment and paired up and shared their ideas about what they felt the pictures were about. They also posed questions about what they wanted to know more about. They became scientists and conducted an experiment to see if they could clean up an oil spill or rubbish from water. We first polluted water in a tub with various things and then tried to clean up with tongs and sieves. Their reflections were insightful. They made sharks from empty boxes and stuffed rubbish in their mouths to understand what happens to our marine life if we continue to pollute the seas and oceans. They met the Panda from China, who wore a mask and an oxygen tank. The children inquired why the panda wore what he did. We arrived at the fact that animals are unable to combat the threats of a polluted environment and it not only affects humans but all living things.
Another exciting unit was – Communities create transportation systems to meet their needs. We inquired into what ‘organization’ means. We explored various parts of vehicles and arrived at what they are and which category the vehicle belongs too. We explored the possibility of no transportation in our lives and shared views on how it would affect us. We are discovering the importance of transport and how it contributes to meeting our needs. We pondered over pictures about transport. We created vehicles from reusable waste. We have investigated the different transportations that existed years ago and how they have changed and evolved overtime. We made our vehicles of the future and watched videos about how transportation will probably change in the future. The children arrived at shortest and quickest ways to arrive at their destinations. They created a world as it would appear from up above and arrived at different transport systems that could be used on different terrains. They questioned and researched about transportation in different regions- snowy mountains, islands, forests, villages and deserts. They presented their findings to their peers and even confidently answered their questions.
Learning can be on the surface or it can travel deeper, to an enduring level. Inquiry based approaches aim to keep children constantly involved and curious about things around them creating life long learners.