A Seed Of Inquiry

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“It has a ladybug head, face.. without the dots”
“Yeah, but it looks like it has….”
“It’s some sort of beetle”

Children ran from stump to stump flipping them on their side then squatting down softly brushing mulch and dirt to the side, sifting through the earth until they saw signs of life…a wiggle of a worm, a hole leading to the home of a cluster of ants, the rapid scurry of a centipede escaping the light.  The excitement is thick in the air, so thick you can feel it as they run with such purpose seeming to be deeply engulfed in the mission to discover life; foreign or familiar each discovery is exciting and celebrated.

As the children experience the traits of the different life they find, I notice that they have collected data, compiled beliefs and examined theories, each time storing this new knowledge to use as a reference for the next bug encounter.

A natural tendency to sort and classify data unfolds. If you don’t watch closely, their keen ability to file and store this new found data could go unnoticed. I am not even convinced that they know they do it. It’s second nature as they play with and explore topics of interest.

The interwoven thoughts and understanding that each child shares only serves as an additional resource through which the children collect and investigate their ways of thinking.  As they explore they openly share ideas, think out loud and contribute to the bank of thought acting as a member of a community of learners.

Through this process new thinking is developed, old thinking is debunked or confirmed. Children are in a state of flexibility, welcoming new ways of thinking new perspectives and letting go of old ways of thinking. Play and exploration provoke such an open-mindedness that allows new learning to plant seeds that grow over time into concrete learning that stays with the child into adulthood.

This process is all the more valuable when we allow natural curiosity to be the spark, catalyst, and conduit for learning.

This organic process can not be planned or recreated artificially because the true seed is born out of authentic interest. This deep connection to the experience is born the moment the child or children seek it out and fill the space where curiosity lives in their soul.

No paper bug project will grow this seed, it will only serve as a disconnection from the real thing.  No plastic bug will water this seed, it will only serve as an experience once removed from the real thing thus pulling them further from the experience. No adult providing facts will shine light on this seed, it will only serve as a damper on the flame of their innermost urges to discover, explore, examine, think, hypothesize, conclude, question, test, re-think and repeat.

Keeping the Seed of Inquiry Alive

1. Allow time, space, and permission for play.
2. Do not hijack play. ( http://playempowers.blogspot.com/2017/04/hijacking-play.html)
3. Allow learning to unfold at the pace of the individual child.
4. Only enter when invited or needed.
5. Welcome ideas and processes of learning that may not feel comfortable or look like your own.
6. Provide materials to support children as they deepen their understanding and question their thinking.
7. Support, don’t solve. Support the children through the process of solving their own problems do not solve their problems for them. Forgoing the process robs them of the opportunity to learn from it.
8. Be present, engaged, and live in the spirit of inquiry in your daily work with children.
9. Allow repeated exposure without rushing the child to the next phase, allow the timeline to be theirs.
10. Accept all ideas as valuable.

Kisha Reid is the owner and director of Discovery Early Learning Center: A
Place for Childhood a wonderful play-based program located in Poolesville
Maryland. She has been in the early childhood field for 27 years and continues to actively work in the classroom with children 3-5 years old. Her passion for authentic childhood has led her to found an advocacy group called Play Empowers which focuses on promoting developmentally appropriate play based education for young children.