Welcome to the inaugural post for inquiry based learning particularly around early years education.
I ought to introduce myself, yet this hardly seems like a literacy hook that will keep you reading. However, I’ll give it a go. Lorraine Sands is my name and I work for Educational Leadership Project as a professional learning facilitator across New Zealand and beyond.
Our website, worth going to for all manner of things connected with life long learning is: http://www.elp.co.nz
I’ve set this word press up to offer a forum for ongoing discussion around inquiry learning in the early years, particularly to encourage cross sector discussion between early childhood teachers and primary school teachers. Any and all actually who would like to contribute, hence the public nature of this site. The intention is to offer references, articles, books and research to invite conversation. Yet, more than this, to actively stretch ideas around what makes learning environments fabulous ones. Ones that take that spark that is the essence of all beginning learners, their birth right, and nurture the flame, inside families, in early learning group settings then on into school and beyond.
Why inquiry learning? It’s such a fascinating notion. It conjures up all manner of explorations coming from the inside out. What makes the sky blue? Where does that ant trail lead? Tell me that story. How does it end? And why? It’s what drives babies to look at those wriggly things at the end of their arms and wonder what they can do? It intriguingly invites connection between people. Where does that ant trail lead and let’s find out together. Rarely does learning happen in isolation from others and when we see learning as connection, we realise the way relationships are the blanket that warms that spark so it dances as flames across time and space. Learning is energy that finds its will to keep pursuing the quest when we often don’t even know what this means at the beginning, long past the easy bits into practice and effort, inside what is imaginable and therefore possible.
I love reading the way people write about learning and teaching. That’s the thing about reading other people’s work, we get to share the intimacy of someone else’s thoughts and make them our own as we wonder what might work for us, adapt the ideas and trial them out. They often end up quite different from the original but I think, only rarely as learning ‘light bulb moments’, more aptly as smouldering ideas awaiting opportunity. Most often out of a relaxed sleep at one in the morning with the problem solved, a wish for a more civilised time say 8.00, and action.
Two writers that I familiarly call favourites have influenced my thinking about inquiry based learning, causing me to re-consider the ways I connect with children to affirm and stretch their learning.
David Perkins makes these comments:
“It’s never just routine. It’s about thinking about what you know and pushing further. It involves open ended or ill-structured problems and novel, puzzling situations. It’s never just problem solving it involves problem finding. It’s not just about right answers. It involves explanation and justification. It’s not emotionally flat. It involves curiosity, discovery, creativity, camaraderie” (Making Learning Whole, 2009, p.29).
It’s not emotionally flat, really resonates. When I think of children immersed in something of great interest to them, they are so clearly emotionally connected. Their whole bodies vibrate with interest. If we use this as a framework for the kinds of learning and teaching environments we help to co-create with children, the scope for inquiry learning, fuelling a passion for ‘learning to learn’, becomes limitless.
These further comments by Michael Fullan imbued with surprise, wonder and awe catapult learners into what Michael describes as the ‘Stratosphere’.
“Learning ought to be irresistibly engaging” (2013).
When these notions sit inside our ‘moment by moment’ conversations with children, we shift children into the driving seat where they take responsibility for pushing to the edge and beyond. The determination for practising the hard bits comes from them. We don’t have to think of learning outcomes. In fact when we do, these so often fall short of children’s imaginative energy. In connection with children though, everything is possible and ‘irresistibly engaging’ is what it is!