Contributed by Head of Lower Campus Shelley Searcy
What does Inquiry Based Learning look like in a PK4 classroom? As a School of inquiry who believes curiosity and passion drive learning, our teachers are doing more than observe what young children are naturally curious about. Our teachers activate student curiosity and inspire new passions through inquiry based learning.
In order to spark some imaginative play, Mrs. Mavi and Mrs. Elizabeth set up their dramatic play center with a puppet stage, a cash register, and a kitchen this September.
And spark they did as the PK4 class saw so much more. The puppet stage became a cashier window, and children started buying things. Buying, selling, and playing store quickly became the first thing the students wanted to do each morning and the last thing they did before heading home.
In response to the children’s passion, the teachers added coins and bills to the puppet stage area, and the cash register was in frequent use.
Then, when the weekly read aloud, Chrysanthemum, was read to the class, a magical moment happened. Chrysanthemum is a higher level text that explores the concept of identity through themes of acceptance, teasing, and self-esteem.
It introduces rich vocabulary and, of course, a variety of flowers. After being intrigued by the flowers in the story, the children started buying and selling flowers. To encourage this new interest, Mrs. Mavi and Mrs. Elizabeth surprised their class one morning with many colorful flowers in the “shop” ready to be sold! Flowers were made of tissue paper and construction paper. There were vases made of cups and baskets for eager buyers to purchase as well.
The children scurried to design price tags ranging from $1 to $500! And shoppers came by from all over the school to purchase the variety of beautiful flowers. Children would rotate “owning” and naming the flower shop. Art, design, and economics were integrated to this flower shop. It was exciting to see the language skills, collaboration, negotiations, and creations of these creative shop owners, their clients, and, of course, their teachers!
We know that children’s play is an expression of their inner thoughts and feelings. Play is the avenue through which they build understanding of abstract ideas, patterns, and concepts. We are grateful to have teachers who foster such a playful place for our children.