Schooling is about supporting children to develop the ability to make decisions, initiate ideas, investigate, research and take risks as they are presented with new knowledge and gain new skills.
They experience this in a social context with other students where they learn to develop the ability to get along with others, to be organized, to develop the ability to persist when the going gets tough, and to build confidence and resilience.
To provide students with the optimum opportunity to have success during their formative years, we want to provide them with the learning, the experiences and the educational environments that will focus on this learning, together with the encouragement and support that will help them flourish.
Students need to be intrigued, be interested in what is being presented, engaged, and enjoy the learning process. With enquiry learning, the process starts with the child, their interests, and hands-on learning. Even though it is the teachers who stimulate the children’s curiosity with a purposeful environment, with their set-up of hands-on activities and experiences, it is still based on what teachers know about the children in their class, their interests, and their related current experiences at home and social environment.
Formal learning and explicit instruction will always be and are still for us, a very important part of a student’s learning experience. It is the way the teacher engages the children, inspires curiosity and keeps students focused to learn more, that is different. The teachers using this method, are very intentional when setting up the classroom. They prepare experiences students engage with and allow this to take place in a set time slot in some of the mornings during each week (more for the younger students and less for the older students)- and use this as a springboard for specific learning that it will lead into.
All experiences are related to learning intentions and the mandated curriculum for the age group in the classroom and planned to encourage wonder, to stimulate creative thought, collaboration and communication. Explicit teaching happens as the teacher moves alongside them to pose questions, offer up information and to encourage more investigation. The formal lessons that follow take this unfolding interest and build on it in explicit lessons to follow. The students often work in rotating groups to allow the teacher to work closely with all students on the parts of the tasks they need more support. With the concept of having a few focus students each day the teacher also consciously takes care to engage with each student’s progress individually.
This may sound new, but it builds on what we have always done – it makes learning richer, deeper and more enjoyable. It provides opportunities for new knowledge to be discovered, and additional knowledge to be taught explicitly; critical reflection to be encouraged and understanding of concepts to be consolidated. The acquisition of new knowledge happens within the context of a natural rich learning environment where 21st century skills are encouraged, fostered and developed, and where students enjoy the process.
Children learn best from doing – we provide them the opportunity to do so.
Mrs Antoinette Wilson