Inquiry in Kindergarten

All week I found myself thinking back to the picture you see to the right and the resulting conversation with a struggling 4 year old student I'll call Sammy.  Sammy has some challenges that unfortunately interferes with his learning in the FDK (Full Day Kindergarten) program.  Nevertheless he comes to school everyday supported by his teacher and the classroom Early Childhood Educator.  But it was a simple conversation with Sammy that demonstrated the power of the inquiry-based learning philosophy of our FDK program.  As I walked into the classroom the first student I saw was Sammy.  He was totally engaged in his painting but was soon to be distracted from his masterpiece by another student wanting to take his blue paint.  Sammy didn't take kindly to the student just wandering over and not asking.  As I approached the arguing students I asked what the problem was.  The other painter said Sammy would let her use the blue paint.  I asked if that was true and Sammy's response was "She didn't ask".  I then turned to the other student and said explained that if you really want to borrow something, that someone else is using the polite thing to do is ask.  She then turned to Sammy and asked very politely if she could borrow his blue paint.  Sammy obliged and was back to his masterpiece as if nothing had happened.  I began to ask Sammy some questions about his painting.  Below is our brief, but enlightening conversation (at least for me).

Me:  Sammy what are you painting?

Sammy: Trees with the leaves changing colours

Me:  Why did you decide to paint that?

Sammy:  Because when we went outside today we looked at all the trees and noticed they were turning different colours and falling to the ground.

Me:  That's great.  Do you know what colours you want all your leaves to be?

Sammy:  Yeah, but I don't have them here.

Me:  Do you think you could make new colours with what you have?

Sammy:  I don't know.

Me:  Well, I'll let you try it out.  I'll be back in a few minutes to see how you are doing.


I left Sammy to his masterpiece and continued my walkthrough of the classroom asking more students questions and learning about their interests.  After a few minutes I made my way back to Sammy before I left the room.  As I approached him he looked up with a big smile on his face, using his paint brush like a big spoon mixing cake batter.  Here's our conversation.

Me:  Sammy what are you doing?

Sammy:  I'm mixing two colours together.

Me:  Why are you doing that?

Sammy:  Because it's going to make a new colour.

Me:  What colours did you choose to mix together?

Sammy:  Red and green.

Me:  So what colour is that going to make?

Sammy:  I don't know....(Sammy stirs vigorously)...brown!  It made brown!

Me:  That's amazing Sammy!  You just made brown from using red and green paint.

Sammy:  Yep.


Sammy continued creating is colourful tree and I left the room knowing that Sammy and his classmates are lucky to be part of the Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program.  A program that is based on play to capitalize on children's natural curiosity.



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