by Cory Taylor, Brown Mackie College


Activate your prior knowledge! Read the statements below each topic. With which do you agree? With which do you disagree? Discuss and defend your opinions!

Topic 1:

The Process of Inquiry into Math, Science, and Technology

  1. Inquiry is the process of finding out.
  2. Children typically construct knowledge and understanding in isolation.
  3. Inquiry processes used by children include exploring, identifying, classifying, comparing, contrasting, hypothesizing, and generalizing.
  4. Inquiry processes have nothing in common with constructivist learning.
  5. In many instances of the thinking processes of children, math and science are joined.
  6. Preschool and kindergarten children are too young to understand and benefit from technology in the classroom.
  7. Your attitudes toward math, science, and technology do not affect the way you teach.
  8. Teachers should engage in investigations and explore materials before presenting them to their children.
  9. Stereotypes are rarely promoted through attitudes, modeling, or cultural expectations.
  10. Teachers should always make an effort to plan curriculum around the expressed interests and abilities of the children they teach.
  11. Dispositions for learning are less important than acquired learning.


Topic 2: 

The Thinking of the Young Child

  1. The brain develops faster than any other part of the human body during the first few years.
  2. By age  five the brain is fully grown.
  3. According to Piaget, the first two years of cognitive development are known as the preoperational years.
  4. Infants are unable to understand basic cause and effect relationships.
  5. A toddler's understanding of langauge comes from context, including the gestures, movements, and vocal intonations, not from the words alone.
  6. Preoperational children often see events and experiences from more than one point of view.
  7. Very young children have the concept of the consistency of amount, that is, they know that the number or amounts of things stay the same unless altered.
  8. The three kinds of knowledge are physical (learning about the phsyical characteristics of objects as you manipulate them), logicomathematical (knowledge of relationships among and between objects), and social (the knowledge shared by people).
  9. Preschoolers' thinking is tied to the real, logical, here, and now.
  10. During the early years  social knowledge comes from adults, peers, and siblings.
  11. Most preschool children are  not mentally or physically ready to explore, identify, classify, compare, or contrast.    


Topic 3:

Socially Shared Learning

  1. According to Vygotsky, learning occurs within the social and cultural contexts and is share by the members of that group.
  2. The Zone of Proximal Development is the area of learning at the point where the learner can accomplish a task independently.
  3. Scaffolding is the structure the teacher provides so the child can master a task.
  4. The first step in scaffolding is to comment on the child's actions.
  5. Peers sometimes provide better scaffolding than teachers.
  6. Play is essential in the learning of the young child.
  7. There are four levels of cognitive play: functional, constructive, pretend, and games with rules.
  8. Research suggests that subjects that are important to learn and the way they are to be learned are embedded in culture.
  9. Most children possess the same or nearly the same learning style.
  10. It is unrealistic to expect teachers to embrace the social context of every child.
  11. Schools should build the concept of communities of learners where teachers and children engage in integrated projects often selected by the children and teachers.


Topic 4:

Learning to Look, Listen, and Respond

  1. Teachers should be reflective thinkers. They should use their knowledge of young children's thinking to perceive the way children are processing their experiences.
  2. Authentic assessment is not very effective in understanding the child at the present moment in order to prepare her for the next steps in learning.
  3. Teachers can and should collect documentation of student learning in a variety of ways.
  4. Photography should never be used to document progress.
  5. By being aware when a child attempts to master something new, a teacher considers how to scaffold this developing skill.
  6. Teachers should not use assessment as a guide or focus for future curriculum.
  7. The social process of dialogue (conversation) is not an important step in inquiry for young children.
  8. Often young children's ideas do not flow logically or sequentially, so by staying open to hearing their processes you can learn a lot from them.
  9. One of the teacher's main roles is to be a participant in student thinking and guide it along the way.


Topic 5:


  1. One primary area of the brain where sensory processing takes place is the brain stem.
  2. The young child uses all of his senses (seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting) to gain information to understand his surroundings.
  3. As teachers communicate with children on what they explore using different senses they begin to truly understand how much children rely on all of their senses to make sense of their world.
  4. Children will not engage in constructive play until they have first had ample experience with functional play. 
  5. In preschool and kindergarten, large blocks of time should be planned for exploring through observing, handling, investigating, and manipulating.
  6. A teacher's comments serve to hinder a child's exploratory learning.
  7. Teachers should focus on descriptive vocabulary as children engage in explorations.
  8. Teachers must make sure that all classroom materials are safe for children to handle. They must also ensure that materials are disinfected to prevent the spreading of potential diseases.  
  9. When engaging in a food experience, children should be permitted to use their sense of taste and eat the materials when they are finished.
  10. To enhance discovery through exploration, classrooms should contain and interesting and current discovery area.  


Topic 6:

Identifying Materials and Processes

  1. Language is the means to express both process and labeling in identifying.
  2. Children's use of "big words" will expand if included in the language they hear.
  3. Parallel talk is commentary that follows what a child is doing.
  4. Parallel talk consists of teacher questions and children responses.
  5. Language expansion is responding to what a child says by expanding the word, phrase, or sentence using a complete sentence or a more complex one. For example, if a child says, "frog green", the teachers replies with, "You are right! The frog in the aquarium is green."
  6.  "I wonder" statements can be used by teachers to reflect what a group of children are considering.
  7. Open-ended questions (those with more than one answer) are inappropriate for young children because they are too complex.
  8. As teachers pose questions to a group of children, they must be observant of the group, their interests, and what is considered in the conversations.
  9. When children listen to adults speaking, they create mental representations based on the language.  


Topic 7:

Classifying, Comparing, and Contrasting

  1. Basic math is using skills of classifying, comparing, contrasting, seriating (ordering), and making sets.
  2. As children use materials in constructing they naturally employ basic math skills.
  3. The process of seriation gradually develops from the ability to classify.
  4. Children should only be able to classify, compare, contrast, order, and make sets during math time and within the designated math area.
  5. Because basic math concepts occur in inquiry, they are naturally a part of science.
  6. You can take the science out of math, but you can't take the math out of science.
  7. Signs and symbols can be used to represent mathematical concepts.
  8. Young children rarely advance into making graphs as they experience basic math concepts.
  9. Young children should begin using bar graphs before they gradually move on to using representative graphs and finally realistic graphs.


Topic 8:

Hypothesizing and Generalizing

  1. The inquiry processes of hypothesizing and generalizing indicate thinking at a level beyond the stage of preoperational thinking.
  2. In the process of working through their ideas as a group, young children can get to the point of making guesses of why something works, or predicting what will happen (hypothesize).
  3. Preschool and kindergarten children typically reach the ability to hypothesize and generalize on their own.
  4. Between the ages of 3 and 6, children are preoperational thinkers, which often does not naturally lead to the higher-level processes of hypothesizing and generalizing.
  5. When children think through ideas as part of a group, they can reach conclusions that take them beyond their preoperational thinking.
  6. In a group experiences, the teacher should take the role of guiding and supporting the group thinking process as it unfolds.
  7. With proper scaffolding there is no science concept beyond the comprehension of a young child.
  8. There are prime times when children are considering ideas and teacher questions should be posed.
  9. The processes of hypothesizing and generalizing are circular - meaning they may happen at any time during a learning experience or investigation.



Topic 9:

Communicating Results

  1. Documentation makes visible the way children learn.
  2. Documentation can take a variety of forms (i.e., drawings, sculptures, webs, anecdotes, photography, videos, portfolios, etc.)
  3. Documentation is the map that marks the way a group proceeds in a study and notes significant changes and turns as the group moves along.
  4. Documentation is an asset for teachers, but it has little value for very young children because they are unable to read.
  5. Documentation guides teacher decisions and shows parents what and how their children are learning.
  6. Documentation displayed in the classroom in a current study should be displayed at a level where children can easily view it.
  7. Dictation can be gathered at any point during a study.
  8. Teachers must be careful to make sure that every child has a part in documentation and that no single child's work is exhibited more than any others.
  9. Documentation should be viewed as a story that unfolds from beginning to end.
  10. Documentation should have a professional look. It should have a clear title and message. It should also have a neat and balanced design. The record of children's work deserves the attention of an artfully designed communication.
  11. A study may be finalized when the children's enthusiasm and interest wanes. It should never be finalized when the teacher's enthusiasm and interest wanes. 
  12. One great way to finalize a study is to invite family members to celebrate the completion of a study or project.


Topic 1o:

Number Sense in Math

  1. When young children first work with numbers they are actually confused by all of their different uses.
  2. Number sense is the understanding of how numbers work. 
  3. There are 3 main principles of counting: the one-to-one rule, the stable order rule, and the abstraction rule.
  4. Emphasis should be placed on learning number names and how to count correctly rather than using the principles of counting to spur higher-order thinking in math.
  5. It is not developmentally appropriate for young children to explore activities that show part/whole relationships.
  6. Consistency of amount or conservation, is not fully developed for most children until the age of seven.
  7. Five is typically the age to introduce the mathematical processes of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.
  8. The best way to assess a child's counting skills is through a paper/pencil test.
  9. Math activities should be offered to individuals and small groups, and different math questions and problems should be posed to challenge a group. In these situations the responses of some will stretch the thinking of others.
  10. A wise teacher permits children to work at logicomathematical concepts and skills while allowing mistakes.
  11. When a teacher corrects mistakes, that information becomes social knowledge.
  12. Counting books, finger plays, number games, manipulatives, and simply counting objects together are all ways teachers can effectively scaffold counting skills.
  13. Children should experience counting activities in authentic situations throughout the day (i.e., during snack time, calendar time, reading, etc.)
  14. In addition to classifying, comparing, and contrasting, number sense is involved in inquiry.
  15. Number sense can be found in measurement and estimation, as one of the outcomes for graphing, and for counting in real world situations.  
  16. Separating mathematics from science seems to go against the natural thinking process of young children.


Topic 11:

Technology in the Classroom

  1. "Smart" toys (those with computer chips) are fun for young children, but they have no real educational value.
  2. Every classroom should have a computer center with an extensive support system, including a printer, scanner, digital camera, and projection screen.
  3. There is now no doubt that when technology is used in developmentally appropriate ways, it can have dramatically positive imacts on learning.
  4. Professional judgment by the teacher is required to determine if a specific use of technology is age appropriate, individually appropriate, and culturally appropriate.
  5. The software in use in one classroom may not be appropriate for the classroom next door.
  6. When teachers are knowledgeable about the ways children learn, about guidelines to appropriate software, and about what is available on the current market, they can make the best selections in children's software.
  7. The preschool years are the first real years of independent computer use.
  8. Children should be exposed to a variety of open-ended software and drill-and-practice software.
  9. In evaluating software, teachers should look at ease of use, responsivity (to a child's actions), learning potential, and entertainment value.
  10. Technology such as microscopes, telescopes, light tables, computers, Smart Boards, etc. can support inquiry.
  11. To make technology and curriculum come alive in your classroom, the first step is to become familiar with the technology yourself and use it. By hands-on learning you will know each tool and can support children in the process.  


Topic 12:

Approaches to Curriculum

  1. Emergent curriculum is the latest fad in early childhood education and is a detriment to quality standards-based instruction.
  2. In the more traditional curriculum of thematic planning, teachers can also involve children in the inquiry process by selecting the topics that are ripe for discovery and focus on children acting on materials to discover concepts.
  3. When choosing curriculum, teachers should refer to the extensive work on developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) developed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
  4. An integrated curriculum encompasses many areas of learning no matter what the topic.
  5. Early childhood classrooms should have interest areas where play and inquiry can take place (i.e., block area, dramatic play area, art area, water and sand area, technology area, etc.)
  6. Inquiry that begins in one interest area should never move to another interest area.
  7. Since play is known as a strong medium for learning in the years from three to six, play is central in curriculum.
  8. As teachers observe children in play, they will be able to see what children have incorporated in their learning.
  9. It is important to remember that in inquiry the focus is always on the content (what children learn).
  10. Children's interests should provide a prevalent source for the topics chosen for a group to study.
  11. For thematic planning to follow inquiry, it must be flexible so teachers can adapt to the flow of individual children or groups.
  12. A constructivist curriculum is a framework for children to construct their knowledge about how the world works through active engagement in meaningful inquiry.
  13. In a constructivist classroom, one would see few choices of activities and/or manipulating materials.  
  14. The Reggio curriculum is far superior to the project approach.  


Topic 13:


  1. Early childhood classrooms should be aesthetically pleasing (beautiful).
  2. Children should become co-constructors of the classroom space.
  3. By carefully carving out space for investigative work, children understand from their teachers that exploring and experimenting are taken seriously.
  4. Teachers must remember that all  topics of study require a large section of the classroom or outdoor space.
  5. As projects grow, the area or location of inquiry may grow and flow from one area to another.
  6. An early childhood classroom should be seen as a laboratory.
  7. Materials and manipulatives should be stored in and organized and attractive way that makes the items easily accessible to children and adults alike.
  8. Display of children's work, photos of recent activities, and documentation of learning have a place in the classroom and in the spaces leading to the classroom.
  9. The main purpose of the outdoor play space is to expand energy, run, climb, and ride, all of which cannot be done to the same degree indoors.
  10. Outdoor space provides places to examine nature, experiment with physical science, and explore earth science.
  11. Outdoor learning space should be seen as a natural extension of indoor learning space.
  12. Beacuse the materials for inquiry curriculum go beyond the usual list of what is available in an early childhood classroom, safety of use is an issue.   


Topic 14:

Exploring Basic Math and Number Sense

  1. Math is only meaningful to young children when used in their daily lives, when appropriate materials are used often, and when problem solving entails math concepts.
  2. Math tasks and decision making should become routine.
  3. Basic math and number sense concepts can be interwoven into the structure of the day and ongoing learning opportunities (i.e., morning meeting, cleanup time, preparing for snack, setting the table for lunch, selecting activities, organizing materials, making plans, and making fair decisions.
  4. Commercial (store bought) math materials and math games are usually superior to teacher/student-created materials and games.
  5. Since competitive games are sometimes difficult for young children, a circular path game should be used.
  6. Teachers should develop graphing with young children through applying what children are finding out and representing it in one or more graph.
  7. Teachers should never prepare a graph ahead of time. Young children must be allowed to create and enter data onto the graph.
  8. Common questions used in graphing include: Which group has more? Which group has fewer? How do you know this? How could we make these two the same size? What group is this? Where are these in the same group? What would happen if we added two more of...? What could we do to change the result? 
  9. Carefully chosen math activities should eliminate comparisons between boys and girls, ethnic backrounds, and socioeconomic differences among children in the classroom.
  10. Estimation (providing a rough guess) of possibilities is an important math concept, and experiences that build on what children know can be used for estimation.
  11. Estimation should be based on a grouping of items that children know something about.
  12. The skill of estimation is directly related to data analysis and probability.


Topic 15:

Exploring Math in Shape, Space, and Time

  1. Math for young children is really nothing more than comparing and counting.
  2. At the heart of mathematics is the search for sense and meaning, patterns and relationships, order and predictability.
  3. Young children begin to make sense of the world around them through working with patterns, part-whole relationships, shape, space, time, and measurement.
  4. There are two levels of exploring patterns: A. Recognizing a Pattern and B. Describing a Pattern
  5. Inlaid puzzles demonstrate the concept of part-hole relationships.
  6. Symmetry (regularity in form) is an important concepts for young children to explore.
  7. Using specific terms such as side, corner, and point to describe shapes to young children is not developmentally appropriate.
  8. The concept of space is conceived from how a child relates to space. Children feel how their bodies take up different spaces, and they use their bodies to understand the spaces they occupy.
  9. When measuring height and length, children should begin with informal units of measurement before they gradually move to formal units of measurement.
  10. It is not developmentally appropriate to expect young children to accurately measure volume, weight, and time.
  11. A classroom timer should be used to help young children begin to grasp the concept of minutes and hours.
  12. The most appropriate calendar to use during calendar time is a weekly calendar that is tied directly to the events in the children's lives.
  13. The concepts of yesterday, today, and tomorrow are important time relationships for young children to know.


Topic 16:

Exploring Physical Science

  1. For the young child to construct knowledge in physical science, he must see others working with the materials. 
  2. The best science activities for children are ones where they produce movements by their actions, vary their actions to affect outcomes, observe the actions, and immediately experience the effect of the actions.
  3. Certain physical science phenomena such as magnetism, density,  and chemical changes are difficult for young children to explain because their actions do not directly cause such phenomena.  
  4. Appropriate physical science topics of inquiry for young children include inclined planes, pendulums & pulleys, block play, tinkering, woodworking, magnetism, and water play.  


Topic 17:

 Exploring Earth Science

  1. Earth science is the study of nonliving and living elements on the planet and the elements that affect the planet.
  2. As with physical science, in earth science young children become most involved with what they can act on and change.
  3. As you work with the different branches of science (physical, earth, and life), it soon becomes evident that the study of these sciences are often isolated.
  4. Appropriate earth science topics of inquiry for young children include ecology (the study of conserving earth resources), observable components of weather, water, rocks, soils, light, and shadows.


Topics 18 & 19:

Exploring Life Science (Plants and Animals)

  1.  The simple act of gardening will open up a world of discovery and understanding of how earth systems work.
  2. For young children, germination is nothing short of a miracle.
  3. Germination should be observed over and over so that the children can record their observations and graph growth.
  4. Plants should only be studied outdoors.
  5. Children should experience the fullness of gardening by preparing soil, planning the garden layout, planting the seeds, and transplanting the seedlings.
  6. One of the best flowers to use to show the life cycle of a plant is the Dandelion.
  7. Natural collections of seeds children find can be examined, compared, contrasted, and classified.
  8. The best way for children to enjoy and know plants is for children to see them in a classroom terrarium or school garden.
  9. One important value to instill in young children is to respect animal life. Children can learn respect for animals by getting to know their characteristics and by keeping them healthy and alive.
  10. Carefully choosing your classroom pet will always prevent it from biting or scratching young children.
  11. When children are allergic to classroom pets the children must go.
  12. Teachers must develop a plan of care that outlines how classroom pets will be taken care of over weekends and breaks.
  13. Children should be given opportunities to compare and contrast the life cycles of various animals (butterflies, frogs, puppies, humans, chickens, etc.).
  14. It is inappropriate to talk to young children about animal reproduction and death.  


Topic 20:

 Inquiry as an Approach to Life

  1. As science, mathematics, and technology experience rapid change, a traditional approach to education is needed now more than ever. 
  2. Research on learning has uncovered important principles for structureing learning to enable children to use what they have learned in new settings.
  3. Future careers will demand people who are less knowledgeable in science, math, and technology.
  4. In order to effectively prepare the next generation, teachers will need to model the way of inquiry for children.
  5. Our role in inquiry requires us to dismiss having to know everything, follow constructivist principles, use assessment to drive curriculum, respect all learners, and develop positive relationships with all stakeholders in education.