Play is the way a child might get involved in a way that is comfortable for him or her. When children play they build relationships that are deep and profound—they become connected with the material, the space, the people, the process, the language, etc. related to play. This connection manifests evidence of the what they know and know how to do related to the topics in that play. Their own understandings coupled with their own interests, passions, and desires become the basis for how they might extend the learning that begins with play. Teachers keenly watch children’s play so that they might help them to formulate questions that will lead to deeper learning going forward. Thus, we share a process for inquiry with children.
Something wonderful happens for a child who knows that he or she has access to a variety of resources related to a question (often questions) that is important to him or her. The child begins to trust that searching out the question is a worthwhile endeavor. The child is inspired to be creative about exploring the question, especially because teachers emphasize the importance of the question rather than pointing to some specific answer. More than answers, children encounter a path to many understandings, which they can test again and again through play. Documentation is critical to inquiry because children need a mechanism for organizing the inquiry process, for reflecting on what has been done before, for finding meaningful inspiration for what to do next. Amongst other things, documentation helps children to build appreciation for the depth and breadth of their learning. Thus, we share a process for design with children.
Children naturally know a hundred languages for expressing what they know. We, adults, just need to support this perspective. Design is closely linked with play. Really, it begins simultaneously with play, and is ratified by what children discover through inquiry. Through design, children leverage their connection with space, material, people, and ideas, and they bring forth something meaningful that might engage others too. Through design children can gauge their personal impact on the environment and others by noticing how their designs influence both. As children collectively work with design, the richness of the entire school community is enhanced and everyone that enters the school has a chance to benefit from the high level of knowledge sharing that happens every day.