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Developing Investigative And Enquiry Skills


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I am just about to launch into a major piece of work with our Early years cluster group - we have made a bid for some funds (yes there is money out there) to support professional development across our Foundation Stage Cluster. We have chosen to look at developing investigative and enquiry skills with the children - particularly in terms of scientific enquiry, but not ruling out other areas - any good ideas for activities, or examples of practice which I could share with others in the cluster?

Many thanks

 

AngelaC :o

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Hi Angela -

Good to hear from you. This is just to let you know that your post has been noticed - I think Helen is pondering it at the moment.

 

It hasn't disappeared in a flurry of other posts as sometimes happens, it just needs a bit of thought...

 

Regards, Steve.

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Hi Angela,

I wanted to think about this before I posted anything :)

This is a really exciting area, and one that we have thinking about recently. We have tackled it in the following ways:

1) Children are intrinsically curious creatures, and we need to start making collections of things for them to look at, (with/without magnifying glasses), listen to, smell, touch, draw, count, describe ,and make patterns with. There is so much scope for including all six areas of the curriculum if we manage to get the right sort of things together that will motivate the children to investigate them. Our first groups of things were leaves, pine cones, conkers, acorns, shells, buttons, feathers (natural and coloured, from the catalogues), seeds, beans, lentils, gravel, fabric, and exotic fruit.

2) Having provided materials for the children to observe closely, we wanted to look into materials that could change eg jelly, ice, shaving foam, dough, popcorn, pasta, potato.

3) We are now turning our attention to more sciency type activities such as investigating the strength of magnets; trying different materials to see which are waterproof; trying different textures on an inclined plank of wood, to see which makes the lorry go the fastest; which lorries go the quickest down our driveway (which is sloping); wind direction (scarves and lengths of fabric); floating and sinking; and starting off a wormery.

We are always open to further suggestions! A book I recently bought was "Let's Explore!" by Ros Bayley and Lynn Broadbent (Lawrence Educational Publications; 01922 643833) It has some nice ideas.

4) We talked a lot in staff meetings about the importance of developing good questioning techniques with the children; questions which invite the children to express their thoughts and make predictions without feeling than they can ever be "wrong". Making time for talk with the children, modelling our own interests and excitement for discovery we felt was paramount. The children need to see us being fascinated by certain things, and wanting to find our more. Talking out loud, eg "I wonder what would happen if I......" " I wonder why...." would give the children examples of how to start a line of enquiry.

 

Hope this helps as a start :D

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Thanks Helen

 

There are lots of ideas in your reply for me to consider - we are already offering lots of the experiences you suggest so I guess it is just a matter of making things a bit more structured and focusing on developing the children's questioning skills (and our own) - I'll give the book a try and look forward to hearing any other experiences people have tried. Thanks again

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Angela, this one does take some pondering! Will post ideas as I think of them. For me, the most important aspect of creating enquiring minds is our ability as practitioners to ask quality questions! To plant a seed of enquiry through questions. What if, how, what will etc. Then of course we have to create activities that lead to finding out and have the confidence to allow childern to try for themselves.

One of the most exciting finding out activities I worked on was a Mr. Fix it table. Actually, nothing was fixed but what a learning curve we had dismantling a sewing machine, a toaster a kettle and other things that had moving parts. We had sorting baskets for parts that were the same, lists of parts that made up each item and lots of drawings. It really was a class effort and when the last screw was unscrewed on the sewing machine, it was whole school news!

Chris :)

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Hi all,

I've just been to a conference and was inspired when I listened to John Siraj-Blatchford talking about DT, ICT and Science in Early Years, he has written books on his research and there is some stuff on the web so you may find it helpful. I'm just about to start a science club and have found lots of ideas for exciting experiments on the web, the good think about Science in Early Years is that you don't have to follow the QCA!

One suggestion from the conference, air - pouring air out of a cup under the water while puring water in with another cup, whisking bubbles and blowing bubbles with tubes, what's in the bubbles? kites, watching what happens to a fir cone in water... as I said, I was inspired!

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Can you share the web locations then, susieb, please?

Sounds exciting and I'm sure we could all find time to have a look.

 

I'm well aware its probably an area that gets squeezed out by literacy & numeracy and it shouldn't!!

 

Susan

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