Project work - Child Led Investigations.

I was perusing this article recently and while I have to admit that I didn't read the whole thing (it's quite long) a few paragraphs caught my eye as I have been thinking about an on-going project in our toddler room this year.  I copied some highlights from the article throughout this blog post to share with you.

A project is an in-depth investigation of a topic worth learning more about. The investigation is usually undertaken by a small group of children within a class, sometimes by a whole class, and occasionally by an individual child. The key feature of a project is that it is a research effort deliberately focused on finding answers to questions about a topic posed either by the children, the teacher, or the teacher working with the children. (Katz, 1994, p. 1) 

Back in the fall one child, in particular,  in our toddler room, was interested in all things fire fighter related.  We got out some books for the book area and it fanned the flame!  Other children became interested as well.  In response to their interest we built a fire truck out of a box.  We also had a mesh fire truck and we set them up side by side hoping that with two we could encourage team work.  Fire fighters work as a group!  We fabricated some hoses, and had some DIY helmets one of our Dads made for our sports court, but the children were happy  using them for fire fighting as well.  We played the Fire Truck song by Ivan Ulz, on the CD player.  The children played with all of  this for quite a while and then moved more into a construction/machines interest.  There was however, always an overlapping that happened as the fire fighter interest continued to emerge from time to time.

Painting our DIY fire truck.

Helmet of all kinds.

Projects provide the backbone of the children’s and teachers’ learning experiences. They are based on the strong conviction that learning by doing is of great importance and that to discuss in group and to revisit ideas and experiences is the premier way of gaining better understanding and learning. (p. 7) 

One of the DIY hoses I fabricated from a skipping rope.  This has been really durable.

Hoses of all kinds.

As with all things toddler, the hoses and helmets were being used one moment, one day, and then suddenly not.

The relevant evidence from these studies suggests that preschool programs based on child-initiated learning activities contribute to children’s short- and long-term academic and social development, while preschool programs based on teacher-directed lessons obtain a short-term advantage in children’s academic development by sacrificing a long-term contribution to their social and emotional development. On this basis, research supports the use by preschool programs of a curriculum approach based on child initiated learning activities rather than one based on teacher-directed lessons. (p. 2) 

Metal wine rack ladders.

"Come on, you guys, come up the ladder!"

The 3-5's have a cool portable ladder in their yard.  We get to play in there now and then, and look at the team work as they figure out how to stand it up somewhere.

This pic below is of three little fire fighters "shooting water" with pylons from the construction area. Yet another example of how the fire fighter interest overlaps and intertwines with their other play and learning. This was yesterday, months and months after the fire fighting play began in our room.  It is still relevant and interesting to them.

I love project work because it enables my children to go in depth with their learning. They really like to investigate and really like to explore. Project work allows me to meaningfully bring real artifacts into the classroom for them to get down, get their hands into their learning . . . just a real in-depth exploration of the topic. I like project work too because it covers all areas of curriculum and does not just focus on one thing such as literacy. A project can help me integrate all areas of the curriculum in an engaging way. 

—Lora Taylor, prekindergarten teacher


If you do open the article, can I recommend that you scroll down to the table that outlines the differences between teacher planned experiences and the project approach?  That was very interesting and important I thought.

 For more reading  - Project Based Pre-school - a little shorter blog post!

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