Read and reflect on the brief introductions below as you begin your study of each topic.
The Process of Inquiry into Math, Science, and Technology
Dispositions for learning are more important than the acquired learning. Whether it is concerned with you as a teacher or with young children in the classroom, the process of learning is much more important than memorizing a set of facts. If you ask the child a question with the expectationof a certain answer, such as, "Triangle" or "The triangle has three corners," the emphasis is in the wrong place. Asking the child to compare a triangle with a square or to make a square from traingles changes the emphasis to constructivist thinking processes. Even a wrong answer can provide fodder for constructivist thinking. A teacher who asks, "How did you find that three triangles makes the square?" may be rightfully challenged to see the child's thinking.
The Thinking of the Young Child
By looking closely at the ways the young child thinks, you see how different these ways are from our modes of thinking. You can also appreciate thought processes and be better able to respond appropriately. Now, with this understanding, you can accept the different ways young children use the inquiry process. In view of constructivist learning, the focus is on the child learning through his or her experiences.
Socially Shared Learning
Learning is a highly individual matter and teaching is a highly individualized interactive process. With the teacher focusing on the child and assisting her in what she cannot yet grasp, she can master the next step. There are many questions regarding cultural ways of learning that teachers can ask about their students. These questions can lead to an understanding of how the child learns as well as what he needs to learn through both cultural and and mainstream society expectations.
Learning to Look, Listen, and Respond
Teachers assess what makes sense in building curriculum using both individual and group knowledge. Knowing that authentic assessment can drive curriculum, you will develop ongoing curriculum in all areas of learning. Listening and responding to children will be useful tools to guide you in facilitating thoughtful discussions. You can incorporate observation, documentation, and questioning in implementing the steps of inquiry.
As we allow children to handle, observe, touch, take apart, and manipulate, the use of senses furthers their understanding of the world. As you work along with the children you will be easily moving from exploring to identifying along with the other steps of inquiry.
Identifying Materials and Processes
In the act of communication with children, skills in language can be expanded, whether talking about what children are doing, listening and reflecting, posing questions, or deciding plans. Each plays a roll in expanding the language of children by helping them scaffold their ideas and thought processes.
The language of identifying and the probing of questions lie at the center of the inquiry process. It is through language that the communication process brings forward the child's thinking on a topic and becomes the medium of interchange for the child to understand her ideas and be challenged by others. Communication is central to identifying. It is also pivotal in the other steps of inquiry.
Classifying, Comparing, and Contrasting
Classifying, comparing, and contrasting are the most basic math skills. Graphs are a natural extension of basic math. Children can use what they know in basic math to understand science in their lives. With this understanding of classifying, comparing, and contrasting, teachers can move on to the next step of the inquiry process - hypothesizing and generalizing.
Hypothesizing and Generalizing
In inquiry children may not move through all the steps, and hypothesizing and generalizing are the ones most likely to be skipped. Yet teachers who actively collaborate with young children find that they can cue into their thinking and co-construction the hypothesis and generalization with a group.
Communicating results is an integral part of inquiry, and young children can be involved in communicating the thoughts, work, and conclusions that the group shares. As the other parts of the inquiry process are circular, so is the communication throughout a study. In the end the document created becomes a part of classroom history to be shared with the school community.
Number Sense in Math
Because of the explanation of learning number sense, when you observe a child actively using counting, you will observe the process from his point of view. You will be better able to scaffold his emerging concepts of number whether this counting is used in the inquiry process or in math skills.
Technology in the Classroom
With new technology becoming more specific in use, user friendly, and available, it is edifying to grasp its profound potential in the classroom. Whatever the medium, you can facilitate its use in order to challenge young minds. With guidelines for selecting the technology tools and appropriate implementation, you can effectively use technology to augment children's learningat a deeper level.
Approaches to Curriculum
Within a variety of curriculum choices, involvement of inquiry can be embedded in a framework where learning is integrated. Inquiry experiences naturally come together as integrated curriculum, connecting science, math, reading, writing, social studies, discussions, art, music, technology, physical skills, and emotional development, and social development.
There is beauty in materials, in their arrangement, and in the displays of children's work. The ways these are displayed brings this beauty into the lives of all who enjoy the indoor and outdoor space. These spaces become the laboratory for active inquiry. Care in the organization of space and selection of materials will enhance children's investigations, not limit them. Once you understand the importance of organization of space, you will be more able to plan curriculum, whether for a long-term study or one single experience.
Exploring Basic Math and Number Sense
Using your knowledge of how young children learn math, the daily experiences in the classroom will bring math into children's real and ongoing problem solving. Organizing math experiences with materials and containers supports activities for a wide range of abilities. Math knowledge is extended through graphing and basic board games. All these experiences promote learning in basic math and number sense and can be blended into all areas of curriculum.
Exploring Math in Shape, Space, and Time
With the description of young children learning in the mathematical areas of shape, space, and time, one can see the experiences that are appropriate to the thinking in young children. By knowing abilities of the children, teachers can expand and solidify the children's thinking through what they study. This is helpful in bringing math into everyday experiences and incorporating math into all areas of curriculum.
Exploring Physical Science
There are four physical knowledge criteria that provide a framework for all the sciences for young children. Physical science experiences should be motivating and meaningful for young children. Open-ended time for discovery of cause and effect relationships in physical science will bring satisfaction and a sense of self-confidence through ongoing discovery.
Exploring Earth Science
The earth science branch combines with the other branches of science for integrated experiences in exploring the world. With attention to topics that interest children, many aspects of earth science will be transformed into extended study.
Topics 18 & 19:
Exploring Life Science (Plants and Animals)
The in-depth experiences of plants and planting bring extensive study into the classroom and beyond. With outdoor and indoor experiences children will be involved in study of plants over a long period of time. Your involvement in extensive planting will help children understand the growth of plant life and therefore relate to plants as part of ecosystems.
The study of animal life that is close to the child provides fascinating exploration. Whether it occurs in thorough examination of life outdoors or ongoing study of animal life in the classroom, children gain a respect for various animals.
Inquiry as an Approach to Life
In order for early childhood education to meet the changing needs of today's world, current and future teachers must shift in thinking and embrace new ways of teaching. For children in all cultures, in all urban and rural areas, and from all families - rich to poor, teachers must provide the most advanced processes of thinking and learning to prepare children to face the scientific and technological age. Early childhood teachers are the first teachers children experience, so they must be the best teachers for the future of our children and for our world.