Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adult Initiated Provocations for Inquiry

In a developmentally appropriate, play-based learning environment children are encouraged to explore areas of self-directed interest. Sometimes these provocations for inquiry occur quite naturally (e.g., finding insects outdoors) and other times they are introduced by adults.

I thought it would be interesting to liven up a grey winter day by putting out a mystery object for my children to explore. I had them guess what they thought these were....

...and then compared them to artificial ones!

It was interesting to hear the children compare the two kinds of sponges. This was an opportunity for rich oral language as we described attributes and I introduced new vocabulary. Their engagement lead to the wonderful question of where real sponges come from. We spent some time researching this online before playing with both kinds of sponges in the tub!

The children were intrigued with how hard the natural sponges were when dry, and how easily they became soft and pliable when wet. They noticed that the artificial sponges seemed to float more easily and held more water. There was an interest expressed in how these sponges would compare as painting tools, so the next day we conducted an artistic experiment in order to find out.

The children help me create the experiment. We decided to choose three colours of paint and use one type of each sponge in order to compare the kind of marks they would make.

Although both sponges appeared to work in the same way, we noticed that the natural sponges were easier to smear and lightly dab on the paper when they had less paint on them.


The sponges are now a regular feature in our bathroom and the children can use them during water play or art creation. This inquiry lasted a few days and I'm now on the lookout for more interesting mystery objects to use as provocations for wonder and excitement in the house!

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