Competent and Capable Children

Kodo Kids Celebrates NAEYC The Week of the Young Child™

Children are natural researchers. They are continuously observing, reflecting, and making connections to the world around them. As educators, we create opportunities and experiences for them to explore their interests and questions. During this three part series we will explore what a long term inquiry can look like in an early childhood classroom and how following the children’s lead can lead to incredible and lasting changes.

A pre-kindergarten class at the Boulder JCC was enjoying their first year in a new school building. After noticing the children didn’t seem to be very engaged in the outdoor space, the teachers, Aimee and Jordan, brought these observations back to the children. The adults asked for their impressions on the new outdoor space. The children quickly created a list of likes, dislikes, and a wishlist of things they thought would make the space more engaging. The teachers channeled the children’s enthusiasm and suggested they research other outdoor spaces to guide their planning. Children used the computer to look up photos of various playground areas or materials they were interested in adding. They also referenced other outdoor spaces they had visited such as parks or school playground and described the spaces to their peers. After this research, the children chose products and areas of the playground they would like to add to their own outdoor space. The teachers suggested they construct a block model to visualize their ideas in the outdoor space. The children worked on the block model for weeks. They continuously added new ideas and even created a color-coded key so they were able to keep track of which areas were which. They used the block model as a guide and expanded their planning to create blueprints, clay models, and various drawings of their ideas for the space.

During this inquiry, the teachers were supporting the children in their research and asking questions to propel their thinking forward. Some of the questions asked were:

– Was it actually going to be realistic to add a rocketship or a pool? Or would it be more realistic to add a mud pit or water pump?

– How will we raise the funds to buy these new items for the outdoor space?

– Who do we need to ask for help in order to make some of our ideas happen?

– Are there any experts in our community that would help us know more about planning an outdoor space?

– How can we make sure these new items or areas will fit in our outdoor space?

A community member who was involved in the planning and construction of the new building brought in architectural drawings and plans to share with the children. There were plans for the playground that included pricing for each item. We used this information to compare prices and began to narrow down their ideas into realistic goals. The two items the children settled on wanting to add to the outdoor space were the Pump Works water pump and Outdoor Magnet Wall from Kodo Kids. Since they were a local company in the area, Aimee and Jordan reached out to Diane Spahn, Kodo Kids’ Director of Education, to see if it would be possible to share the children’s work they had done throughout the long term inquiry. Diane set up a visit for the children to share their designs and drawings with the Kodo design and engineering team and even tour the workshop! The children were so proud to share their ideas and plans with real designers. At the end of the tour, the children used money they had collected from their bake sale to purchase the water pump and magnet wall. Their ideas and planning had come to fruition!

The value of a long term inquiry comes in the form and depth of the knowledge and understanding the children have around a topic and not a product at the end. Children are some of the most valuable members in our community. They are valuable not simply for their future worth, but what they offer us in the present. They are capable of incredible things and can leave lasting changes in their path if we harness their innate curiosity and support them in being active researchers.

Spark Inquiry-Based Learning in Your Classroom:

  • What interests do you observe in your own classroom that can be expanded upon?
  • In what ways can you ask support children in deepening their understanding of a topic or interest?
  • Are there any members in your community that can support children in their exploration of these topics or interests?

Jordan Kaseeska is the Education Specialist at Kodo Kids. She received her undergraduate degree from Colombia College Chicago in Early Childhood Education and went on to earn her masters degree from University of Colorado- at Denver in Education and Human Development with a focus in Early Literacy. She has used her passion for constructionist style teaching in both public and private early childhood and elementary schools.