"Children are naturally curious, and why shouldn’t they be? Their world is an exciting place, filled with new things to explore, new sights to see, and new people to meet," says Dr. Jennifer Gonya, assistant professor at Ohio State University and author of Turning Curiosity into Scientific Inquiry. But this curiosity needs to be nurtured and cultivated for it to truly benefit a child’s development and learning.
The Project Approach and other interest-based inquiry strategies offer teachers specific ways for children to:
- Learn about interesting, worthwhile, and real-world things in appropriate ways
- Ask questions and investigate answers
- Address standard early learning content
- Work at their own pace and on their own level
- Collaborate with others to plan, solve problems, and think creatively
To find out more about inquiry projects, view REC videos on You Tube that answer the questions, "Why is the project approach ideal for young learners?" and "What are the 3 phases of the project approach?" Then explore the following links to REC Inquiry Projects undertaken in classrooms across Ohio, other inquiry projects from outside Ohio, and supporting articles and materials that include information about inquiry.
Click on the title to see an example of an interest-based inquiry project undertaken by a team of Ohio early childhood teachers and children. It will provide you with ideas and inspiration for your classroom.
The Bridge Project
When the children began to notice and sketch the bridges in their playground area, the teachers thought perhaps it would lead to some inquiry. And they were correct. The children’s questions—such as “What makes a bridge stay up?”—framed the investigation. The meaningful classroom and field site experiences provided opportunities for the children to find the answers.
The Fish Project
This is the story of how one Ohio preschool class and teacher took an investigative journey that began with an empty aquarium in the new classroom, included a trip to a pet shop and a nearby creek, and ended as the children shared their newfound knowledge and experiences with family and friends beside the child-created classroom mural.
The Bus Project
Children on their daily walk around campus began noticing and talking about buses. The children asked questions like “How do buses drive? and “Does the horn beep?” This interest led to the investigation of buses which utilized the help of a local bus driver and part of a real bus situated in the lobby of the center.
The Dog Project
Many questions about dogs and their behavior puzzled a class of young children on their morning walks. How do dogs bark? Do they take baths? These inquiries led to an extensive, ongoing study of dogs that included meeting dogs in the classroom, watching a dog being groomed, meeting a rescue dog named Dr. Quincy, and lots more.
The Bicycle Project
The bicycle store in the neighborhood was the perfect place to spark questions and investigation for this class of preschoolers. The store display of bikes gave the children opportunities to observe, compare, and investigate. Books, materials, and objects brought to the classroom provided more information and answers to questions like, how does a bike work?
Do you have questions about the Project Approach? Are you looking for additional ways to provide learning opportunities in your classroom that address 21st century learning skills, content standards, and meet the needs of a diverse population of children? The following materials and supporting articles
will help you find the answers you seek. You can also participate in the RECommunity of Practice
to explore this approach on an ongoing basis with other Ohio educators.