Inquiry-based Choice Time

Inquiry and Play.As they say in the song, “you can’t have one without the other.” When children are playing, they are always creating their own inquiry. It’s only when the adults step in and set up a “play agenda” that the opportunities for inquiry get squashed.

Watch these four-year olds in the school playground after a rain.Without a particular plan, they’re making discoveries as the repeatedly bounce their rubber balls in the puddles that formed in the schoolyard. Wow, how exciting! Every time the ball bounces into the puddle the water splashes and there’s almost a hole in the center of the puddle. What a marvelous discovery. They happily try it again and again. (Isn’t that what scientists do? Don’t tell them they’re being scientists. They’re just having fun!)

Stella is the fifteen month old grandchild of my friend Silvia. Silvia lovingly sends me videos of Silvia as she explores her world and I marvel at her persistence and her inventiveness.

Now comes our challenge as educators. How can we keep this sense of discover and exploration alive in our classroom without giving children a task or presenting them with a a “Choice Time agenda” for exploration?

Here’s a scene from a kindergarten class in a NYC public school. These boys have been playing in the block center for a few days. Consider the persistence and inquiry that they are exhibiting. Pay attention to the young, snack-munching observor on the side and listen to his words of wisdom.

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