An unexpected experience of Inquiry-Based Learning in kindergarten happened in our classroom last week when a little boy came to school with a treasure map he had drawn at home. The map consisted of a few meandering lines, some loop-de-loops and, of course, a mysterious X. The map itself was a kind of treasure because it drew a crowd and the student found himself answering a lot of questions and leading search teams through the school yard.
Our kinder team noticed the interest the map had produced, and so we began to think of ways to facilitate further inquiry. While the students were outside with my colleagues, I returned to the classroom and put a large X on the floor with electrical tape. A few minutes later, when the students came in, they instantly noticed it and, with their backpacks and jackets still on, formed a crowd around the X, wondering why it was there and who had put it there. A buzz was created and curiousity piqued. Suddenly, so many students wanted to make maps! And so, while the students were having a snack, my colleague and I quickly taped up about 12 feet of mural paper on the wall under the windows and put out containers of markers and rulers. On a science table, we spread out several old National Geographic maps and placed magnifying glasses on them, and at the art table, there were maps to cut up, scraps of brown mural paper, tape, and markers.
For the rest of the day, many of the students were fully engaged interpreting maps and making maps. There were, however, some students who were completely content to play in the kitchen, or at the sand table, while a flurry of map-making went on around them. Interestingly, the little boy who had brought in the original treasure map which had sparked the inquiry spent his afternoon engaged in dramatic play in the kitchen. And that is what is helpful to remember with an inquiry – it may not be of interest to everyone, the whole class may not be drawn to embark on the same project and the spark may not last. And so it was, that the next day, when my English colleague came in to teach my class for the day (we alternate French and English days between 2 classrooms), the students were on to something else, following a different thread of inquiry. Never the less, I consider the day as an exciting, spontaneous, hands-on introduction to maps that will be beneficial whenever we talk about directions, measuring distance, and labeling diagrams, throughout the year. Such is the way with Inquiry-Based Learning.