A Kindergarten Inquiry: Investigating Winter

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Our class has been participating in a year-long inquiry that explores the changes that occur in animals, plants, weather, and people across the seasons.

The goal for this study is to help children see the patterns, cycles and interdependence of the natural world.

This post continues and builds upon the work we began with our fall inquiry.

Building Background
We began the winter phase by reading a few books about the season and taking a Winter Walk.   

The children were invited to look for signs of winter and became very interested in the tracks they discovered. 

     
a kindergarten class exploring winter tracks in the snow

They found animal, people, tractor, and snowshoe tracks.

a kindergarten class exploring winter tracks in the snow

a kindergarten class exploring winter tracks in the snow

Establishing Research Groups
Following the walk, each child chose a research group (animals, plants, weather, and people) and posed a question for their group to explore.

kindergarten inquiry question board for winter investigation

Accessing Prior Knowledge
We then began to meet in small groups focusing on one question at a time. I asked children to share their ideas about what they thought the answer might be.

This was one of my favorite parts of the inquiry as children made their thinking visible and showed great enthusiasm for wanting to "figure it out."

In this second phase of our study, I could see how some of their thinking was built upon information they had learned from the questions explored in the fall.

It was great to see their knowledge, as well as their vocabulary, growing in this way.  

learning about animal adaptation through squirrels, deer, and fox in kindergarten
Their questions about squirrels in the fall helped them answer questions about deer and fox in the winter as they applied what they had learned about animal adaptation.
Conducting Research
We used books, videos, and hands-on materials as we listened, observed, talked, and discovered the answers to our questions. 

As I listened to the children, I really began to understand the meaning of the word "synthesize." I saw them combine learning from previous questions with new information.

I also noticed that there were concepts that came up that cut across the different research groups. For example, insulation was touched upon with the Weather group (Why do you have to wear a hat in the winter?) and the People group (How do we go outside with hot cocoa?).    This provided the opportunity for children to see the relationship between the different areas of science. 

kindergarten class exploring where leaves come from
Plant Group exploring, "How do leaves grow from trees?"

kindergarten surveys
People Group exploring, "What do people drink in the winter?"

kindergarten experiment to learn how snowflakes are made
Weather Group exploring, "How are snowflakes formed?"

kindergartener on snowshoes to learn how rabbits move
Animal Group exploring, "How do snowshoe rabbits hop so far?"

Sharing What We Learned     
In the fall, the children spent some of their group time thinking about how they would share what they learned with the rest of the class at the end of Discovery Workshop.  

With this set of questions, I realized that we didn't need to spend time preparing to share. This is because it had become the routine for the whole class to share where they worked and what they did there so with the research groups it naturally evolved into, "I worked with Mrs. Clarke and we learned..."  

I was so surprised at how well they articulated what they were learning that there were days that it literally brought tears to my eyes!


The Culminating Project
We culminated the winter phase of our study by working together to make a board game that incorporated the content we had learned.

Each research group created questions cards (based on the questions they explored), board game spaces, and a pawn that represented their research group. 

kindergartners create a board game to apply learning

kindergarteners create a board game to apply learning about winter

kindergarteners create a board game to apply learning about winter

The best part was when we put it all together and played the game! 

kindergarteners create a board game to apply learning about winter

The Weather group was the first to finish, but based on everyone's ability to answer the questions, I think we were all winners!  

Next up - Spring and the last phase of our study!  Can't wait to see how the children build upon the knowledge gained in previous phases and where their questions will take us!


Thanks for stopping by!

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