A variety of Inquiry Centres exist within our classroom environment. These inquiry centres provide students with a wide range of opportunities to explore, discover, practice and demonstrate knowledge and skills in all areas of learning. Materials are placed with intention at each inquiry centre to provoke thinking and to uncover curriculum expectations; yet, the open-ended framework allows students to explore the materials freely. With this structure, educators can clearly identify where the child is, and push them further and deeper in their thinking. Inquiry centres allow children to extend their learning “outside of the box‟ as they begin to develop a culture of thinking.
Construction is a creative and collaborative space where intricate communities and habitats are built. It is a place to extend imaginative play, to promote language development and to increase mathematical and scientific understanding. Children are also building gross motor skills, physical strength and developing coordination.
Materials: wooden blocks (various sizes and shapes), tree blocks, coloured rocks, stars and straws, mirror blocks, boxes, construction journal, writing materials for signs, names, labels, diagrams, pictures and books, props
Visual art is another form of communication. Children show what they know, wonder, dream about, and are afraid of in their creations. While producing, they are making sense of the world around them, developing their fine motor skills, knowledge of artistic forms and elements, and enhancing their creativity. Art permeates the Kindergarten program as a vehicle for children to express their ideas and construct understanding.
Materials: found & recycled materials (natural & otherwise), paper, paint, writing utensils, glue, tape, mirrors, clay, , wire, scissors, easel
In Drama, complex ideas regarding daily life are played out. Many different ideas and scenarios are imagined and dramatized in this space. The children pretend to be adults they know from their lives: parental figures, teachers, doctors, and members of their own community at large.
Materials: clothing, writing materials, message pads, child sized furniture, full-length mirror, building blocks, scarves
This is a space that urges children to ask scientific questions about the world around them. It is through these questions that children grapple in their thoughts, develop theories, and ultimately come to conclusions based upon their own actions: sifting through sand, examining a variety of shells, sketching the veins in a leaf, hypothesizing about life cycles, etc. As we take the children outdoors, we focus on nurturing their relationship with nature and a love for their own world, consequently, bringing an understanding of the outdoors into our classroom environment.
Materials: plants, books, magnifying glasses, baskets for collections, recording materials, observation journals, found & recycled materials
Graphic Communication provides an opportunity for communicating ideas, thoughts, and experiences by way of dialogue, writing, and graphic representation. In this process, writers are required to multi-task as they draw upon the many necessary skills needed in the development of their printing and writing for purpose, (for example: moving from scribbles to letters and words, and beyond).
Materials: variety of paper, pencils, crayons, markers, personal writing books, alphabet books, alphabet letters, computers, iPads, manipulatives
HANDS ON THINKING
Due to students’ strong sensory orientation, they have to physically manipulate and explore in order to make meaning of mathematical concepts. They begin taking risks with their learning and continually are challenged with problems throughout their inquiries. Students work collaboratively, developing their social-emotional selves, while extending on each others’ creative thinking and ideas. Through this process they are developing their 21st century thinking skills.
Materials: math manipulatives for sorting, patterning & counting, writing tools, 5 and 10 frames, beads, dice, geometric figures and 2D shapes, sorting trays, 100 square carpet
At Light, a light table or flashlights and an overhead projector invite children to experiment with light. These instruments provide experiences with cause and effect, shape, color and silhouette. The light source shines underneath the children’s faces, from below rather than above and creates a new relationship with light. This is a new way to perceive light and experience transparency, luminosity and opacity.
Materials: overhead projector, light table, jewels, number, letters, translucent & opaque paper, stones, tracing paper, transparencies, markers, watercolours, prism block, geometric figures and flashlights
A cozy and inviting nook is just the place for children to foster a love and interest in books. A variety of texts will be available to students to engage with throughout the year. Looking at pictures, sharing a book with a friend, chanting a poem, and retelling stories with puppets are some of the events that will happen here. In addition to books, audio recordings are available for students. The Listening and Reading area is always available as a place to slow down and snuggle up with a book.
Materials: picture books, class made books, pointers, non-fiction, big books, retelling materials, poem charts, audio books, French and other language books
SENSORY, SAND AND WATER
Rich sensory experiences are essential during the primary years, as children rely on these opportunities to make meaning and gather information. The touch and sound of these materials is powerful as children take risks to overcome challenges in their learning-based play. For example, filling and refilling a variety of containers to meet an ultimate goal allows children to explore concepts of volume, mass, weight and conservation. It is here that they will discover the abilities of these mediums and their capabilities.
Materials: sand, water, snow, variety of plastic containers, lids, dishes, funnels, sieves, scoops, shovels, rakes, combs, spoons, molds, pails, shakers, props (sticks, stones, shells, magnifiers, cars, flowers, trees, animals), measuring cups & spoons, plastic tubing, plaster, wire whip, water wheels & pumps
The centres in our classroom are flexible and do change from time to time, in response to the interests of our students. Materials placed are changed regularly to provoke thinking and elicit learning that meets curriculum expectations. This is just one way of setting up a classroom into spaces that invite learning that we have found to be successful in promoting an optimal environment for kindergarten students. This is not a formula. We hope you can be inspired by our classroom environment and implement what you take from us in your own context.