As I've shared before, ECE is already using an inquiry based curriculum. However, now that we have one year of teaching it under our belts, our group focus is to consider how to make it more authentic for our students.
This month, we have explored and investigated garbage and recycling. We explored the trash we make at home, in our school, and in our community. We then considered all the ways we can reduce, reuse and recycle. Now we are getting to the meat of the unit and beginning to synthesize how we can have an impact.
Since this is the 2nd time we have taught this study, I am more comfortable with it and as a result, I feel the children are making some larger connections. The children are enthusiastic about the topic, are reusing items in different ways, and are talking about recycling at home. Given my group's focus, I really wanted to venture deeper into our own investigations around the topic so so I invited some experts in to help.
First I invited a parent volunteer to come in and help us explore our own question What is composting? Using real items, she showed us all of the different stages of the process. She had done this with us last year, but it was limited to her showing the children the various stages of composting and then we as a class gathered items for composting in the classroom to add to the school-wide bins. The only issue was children never actually witnessed the composting process as it occurred. So this year, I decided to put the process into action in the classroom. To do this, the same parent volunteer shared the various stages of composting. Only this time I had prepared a 10 gallon glass tank divided into 2 using a plastic piece. The parent layered each side of the tank with dirt and organic material. Only on one side of the tank, she added worms. My hope was obviously for the children to actually see how "natures recyclers" go to work. After 2 weeks, the children can see how one side is molding and decomposing while the other side is sort of disappearing into the dirt. Perhaps this simple tweak and visual will help reinforce the idea of how easy it is to reduce the amount of trash we put out for the garbage man. Already as you can see in the photo, children are adding organic material leftover from their lunch. It seems to be working.
Exploring is rigor and inquiry in ECE. My focus should be on developing background knowledge and offering a safe and nurturing environment in which children can explore their questions. I can guide them to places or people to find answers, but it is the process that is most important. I am now comfortable enough to veer off on my own course of
inquiry within the curriculum and do the things I think will engage my students and support
them in making connections.
Now that I've reached this stage, my next goal is to find more effective means to support my students in posing their own questions and following through with those investigations (whole or small group). Not only do I want to work more with small group investigations, I also want to work on modeling in order to guide the flow of a study so connections from one essential question to another are more fluid...hopefully allowing children to develop deeper understandings. To do this, I'm going to be more diligent, intentional and consistent with my shared writing experiences, thinking strategies and daily reflection time to make our last 2 studies of the year more cohesive.