‘Enquiry’ is the new buzz word in early education. What is enquiry if not the process of asking questions and building knowledge, with the ebb and flow of topical interest and conversation in the room? Good preschools will share how the process is driven by lots of planned hands- on experiences.
As teachers, we strive to create activities that inspire curiosity through new questions, helping shape what educators call ‘content knowledge’ or at our stage, early understanding and foundations.
But how do we know what children should know? What is going to be a foundation for future content learning and where should we focus our enquiry efforts as teachers? Big questions with many different answers depending on who you ask. Arguably, apart from pathways in math and literacy, we do not know for sure. But what we do know is that we want our children to be able to ask, enquire and make their own connections and when enquiry is tied to certain concepts- no matter what topic- it resonates as a skill and sticks as a learner habit.
We know, for example, that when children inquire about life on the planet in relation to their own life, they make stronger connections for what they are learning because it is relatable. We also know that when we talk to them about the universal principle of cause and effect- (the ‘what’ and ‘why’s’), then they learn to look for that link themselves as learners. We see how through actively comparing and contrasting things, they develop a more robust understanding for what things are, or are not. When teachers model and teach these skills through enquiry processes, by framing the activity so that we touch those areas no matter what the theme or topic, children begin to mirror that same critical process, taking it beyond with their own curiosity. And as schools, we elevate their experiences from discovery to investigative habits- or enquiry.