Inquiry based learning in preschool is one of my truest passions as I believe it is the platform to learning. Some have misconceptions about preschool play and view it as a mindless activity. Preschoolers are natural inquirers. Their curiosity drives their interests and their play. This innate desire to discover does not eliminate the need for careful planning and facilitation. The following is an example of how I used our preschool artists’ interests, curiosities and enthusiasm to plan a lesson that created the environment they needed to go deeper with their thinking.
The investigation shown in the video came about after a previous lesson experimenting with color mixing and watercolors. In the previous lesson, artists began adding a splash of one color to another, and they quickly realized with great curiosity that new colors were produced. Their interest, thrill and excitement was tangible and I listened. I heard children question the magic of color mixing but I also observed that the diverse selection of colors and the watery medium was limiting their ability to process the colors as they mixed.
In the following lesson, students were presented with tempera paint, a more solid paint, that allowed for students to slowly explore and further investigate their questions. This lesson afforded our preschoolers opportunities to practice so many of their developing inquiry skills – they observed (using senses and simple tools); they described (verbally or through pictorial representations); they compared (noting similarities and differences); they predicted (noting expected outcomes); they reflected (integrating new info into one’s knowledge base); and they cooperated (working together and sharing findings).
The children took the learning in their own direction. They chose to mix the paint and circle the table! The uninhibited nature of this play led our inquirers down a path to discover:
What does paint stick to?
Why do things stick?
How do we clean it?
Is it permanent? Not permanent?
The process of inquiring begins in the early years; information gathered through our senses. The transformation of learning experiences and practical knowledge sets the foundation for true, enduring understandings.
Enjoy the play!