“The word ‘project’ evokes the idea of a dynamic process, an itinerary. It is sensitive to the rhythms of communication and incorporates the significance and timing of children’s investigation and research. The duration of a project can thus be short, medium or long, continuous or discontinuous, with pauses, suspensions and restarts.”
(Rinaldi. C, 2006).
Projects and investigations challenge the more traditional methods of teaching and learning. They are founded on an image of the child who isstrong and competent, rich with ideas and resources, curious about the world around them and capable of constructing their own knowledge and understandings. Whilst more traditional methods of teaching and learning focus on the transmission of knowledge from the “teacher” to the “learner”, projects and investigations value children as true researchers who possess their own theories and are active participants in the knowledge- building process.
How does an investigation begin?
There is a common misconception that all investigations must begin when a strong interest
emerges amongst the children. However, in reality, an investigation may also ignite from a new provocation introduced by a teacher, or the question of one child being offered back to the group, or a problem confronted by one or more of the children in the group.
“Do dinosaurs wear gumboots?”
“Does a tree have a heart?”
“Do ants live in hotels?”
Whilst the inspiration behind each investigation can differ, an investigation typically begins to develop when a teacher recognises it’s potential, joins the children in their wonderment, and begins the cycle of listening, observing, documenting and interpreting. Using the information gained through observation, interpretation and collaborative dialogue with colleagues, teachers can then plan ways to support the children’s curiosity and encourage further investigation.
“Never teach a child something that he can learn on his own.” - Loris Malaguzzi
Provocations and Expressive Languages
Provocations that invite children to represent their ideas using a specific art medium are often
introduced as a tool for provoking deeper investigation. When drawing or painting a subject of interest children are encouraged to look more closely at the object, discovering details previously overlooked; when creating a clay sculpture children are asked to consider form, dimension, size and proportion; and by drawing a plan of their proposed construction children may be encouraged to add more detail, introduce new components and think critically about what is needed. Expressing their theories using different art mediums also encourages children to communicate their ideas with each other and consider different perspectives. Investigating within a group learning context generates new possibilities for deeper learning and investigation.
The Role of the Teacher within Investigations
Within projects and investigations teaching and learning are interwoven. Children and teachers
become researchers together and share in the joy of learning. Whilst supporting the child in their investigation, the teacher must also carry out their own research in an effort to better understand the child’s curiosities. Listening, observation, documentation and interpretation are important tools in a teachers research. These various forms of pedagogical documentation assist teachers to hypothesise possible directions that the investigation may
proceed. Whilst the teachers’ hypotheses must remain flexible, they offer a base from which to plan the environment, materials and provocations that will not only invite the child to delve deeper into their own ideas and theories, but also test the teachers’ hypotheses about the child’s intent. Just as children do not learn in linear ways, the role of the teacher within projects and investigations does not follow a prescribed pathway either. The cycle of observation, documentation and interpretation supports the teacher to work within a more holistic or “spiraling” approach.
“The task of the teacher is to create a context in which children’s curiosity, theories and research are legitimated and listened to, a context in which children feel comfortable and confident, motivated and respected in their existential and cognitive paths and processes.”
(Rinaldi. C, 2006)