Children are born curious about the world around them. One of the most important things a great educator can do is to foster this innate curiosity in their students, build upon it, and teach their students to ask questions. If nurtured and developed, this can result in a generation of students that not only knows a lot about the world around them, but also questions how to make the world a better place.
Inquiry-based learning, which can start as early as preschool and pre-kindergarten, is one way in which educators can provide the foundational skills necessary for students to question, investigate, reflect, and offer creative solutions to complicated problems.
What is inquiry-based learning?
Inquiry-based learning and teaching is an educational practice that aims to activate students’ curiosity. Instead of relying on information delivery alone to explore a topic, teachers invite students to inquire about the world around them. The focus shifts away from rote memorization and triggers curiosity as students investigate and research a conceptual idea, problem, or interest.
There are four basic steps of inquiry-based learning:
As the name suggests, questioning, or inquiry, is the foundation of inquiry-based learning. In this stage, the teacher introduces a high level topic - a big idea - and begins asking broad, open-ended questions around that topic to provoke inquiry. As the classroom digs deeper into the topic together, the teacher dynamically builds a lesson based on the students’ foundation of knowledge around the topic, as well as their possible misconceptions. The teacher scaffolds the questions in a way that allows them to drill down to a specific concept, and eventually lands on a driving question. This driving question is crafted around student input and voice, and naturally invites them to the next stage.
Investigation follows the inquiring stage of the lesson. In this stage, the teacher provides learning opportunities as children become early researchers. Together, the children and teacher investigate through observation, literature, photographs, specimens or artifacts, and other hands-on experiences.
After researching, students present their findings to their classmates and teacher. Not only do presentations build confidence in young learners, but students are also taught to listen and give feedback to their peers in a constructive way.
As the lesson comes to a close, the classroom reconvenes after the presentations to reflect on findings, and perhaps plan for further research.
Benefits of inquiry-based learning
The benefits of inquiry-based learning extend far beyond a single lesson. In an inquiry-based learning environment, students are encouraged to take control of their own learning, which teaches them ownership and accountability. According to Edutopia, inquiry-based learning also promotes increased connectivity to the world and the development of essential 21st century skills.
Inquiry-based learning is also the basis of early childhood STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) learning and the foundation of project-based learning, which will help students with authentic problem solving in later years.
How Stratford School promotes inquiry-based learning
Stratford school integrates inquiry-based learning to foster the curiosity in our youngest learners in the academic and summer program curriculum.
In Stratford School’s redesigned summer program, preschool and pre-kindergarten students will be encouraged learn, explore, and engage in imaginative activities that promote inquiry and STEAM learning. Each session is designed around inquiry-based projects that develop essential foundational skills in phonics, math, motor skills, music, and social skills. Learn more about Stratford’s summer programs today!