See, Think, Wonder: How Our youngest students inquire at the Early Childhood Center
As the warmer months roll in, the Early Childhood Center (ECC) comes even more to life with its blossoming natural areas. Recently, tadpoles and hatching swan nests have appeared – sparking curiosity and intrigue among our youngest students.
Being surrounded by such lush biodiversity is an excellent learning environment for students. Inspired by Harvard’s Project Zero, Science teacher Phil Rynearson and Second Grade teacher Ellen Boomer take the opportunity to practice a thinking routine to support students in the learning process in three simple steps: See, Think, Wonder.
“This thinking routine engages students to carefully notice the different parts and features of objects, ideas, and phenomena,” they say. “See, Think, Wonder allows for open exploration of a concept rather than the more common teacher-directed delivery of information and knowledge transfer.” For students, creating a close observation and description of a concept is also the first step toward developing thoughtful explanations and interpretations and identifying areas of further inquiry.
See, Think, Wonder is a student-centered approach that lets teachers discover what their students want to learn more about in a lesson in a creative way. In this routine, students' creative thinking comes to the surface and encourages them to make connections across lessons and topics in their learning. Although this method can be employed across all disciplines, here’s how it works for science at the ECC: “We want observations to lead to questions that lead to thinking of ways to plan and carry out investigations. This process leads to new observations, new questions, and changes to possible future investigations.” say Ellen and Phil.
The See, Think, Wonder approach lends itself to the school-wide goal of promoting inquiry-based science learning. Renowned science consultant and friend of ASH Paul Anderson asks an important question: “How do we take into account the wonder of our students so we can help them build knowledge based on that?”
Indeed, asking questions is how we learn, and wondering is when learning happens. From these initial conversations, teachers can support students through the inquiry process of showing their thinking through a model, planning and carrying out investigations, and engaging in an argument using evidence to support one’s claims.
“As teachers, this is a great way to stimulate curiosity and set the stage for inquiry for students, which can result in thoughtful interpretations,” Ellen and Phil share “We can also find out where children are in their thinking and understanding about a concept, which helps us guide future explorations, conversations, and lessons.”