Saturday, August 4, 2012

Inquiry Spaces

I was asked to explain in greater detail what I mean by inquiry spaces with documentation. The photos that I have attached to this post are from different inquiry spaces within our room and they have a few things in common:

~materials specific for each inquiry are intentionally organized to provoke the students and made available to them for their exploration/investigation
~documentation binders are accessible that hold: students' working theories through dialogues with them, their graphic representations (drawings, paintings, etc.), and photos of their process to make visible our work together
~photos enlarged of key learning moments for students to revisit
~some of their graphic representations of key learning moments are displayed with transcriptions of their thoughts
~clipboards for educators to take anecdotal notes of conversations and observations
~print resources and technology (laptop, iPads) for the children to research further about the inquiry topic
~technology used for documentation (camera, laptop, audio recorder, SMARTboard, iPad, etc.)
~FDELK program document and teacher professional resources to support the directions of the inquiry

This is an example of our "Sky Inquiry" space, which included many
of our students.  It is one of our largest inquiry spaces within the room.

Our "Science and Discovery Inquiry" space had multiple inquiries
("A Home for Snails" and "Growth") and used a variety of surfaces.

Our "Tree Contest" turned into an inquiry space that
 investigated the possibility of creating a life-sized forest.

Our "Flower Inquiry" space allowed children to observe the
life-cycle of fresh bouquets of flowers and how they change.

Our "Castle Inquiry" space was sparked by a students'
visit to Slovenia and her photos of real castles.

I hope that this clarifies what I mean by inquiry spaces!  Please let me know if you have any further questions, and I would be happy to answer them! :)


  1. Thank you for sharing. Your space is so inviting and the amount of time and care you put into every detail is extraordinary.

  2. Thanks for sharing more information and thanks also for the photos of your beautiful classroom learning environment. This is something that I am thinking a lot about implementing in the new school year. Do you find that there is any mor time invested in the planning and documenting process with this approach, rather than using a mor centralized system at a teacher desk?

    P.S. I love the description saying that rain is the clouds sweating!

  3. Your inquiry spaces are so provocative and seem to foster real investment and ownership of the investigation. It seems that most things you do are framed as inquiries, with means for representing, in some way, the experience of the investigation. It's rich! This is a very rudimentary question, but what is your daily routine like in your Kindergarten class?

  4. I am really interested to know how these inquiries start and how you come up with ways to keep extending the exploration. I am going to really need to work on getting away from my regular question and answer routine and work towards asking questions as responses to questions. This coming year will be my second year of teaching, and my first as a K teacher. I too am very interested in your daily routine. One thing I sort of find perplexing is wht to do from 9-330.

  5. Great feedback and questions everyone! Thanks so much!!

    I will post more about my "flow" of the day (daily routines) within another post.

    I invest a great deal of time during the school day working on pedagogical documentation. The documentation serves as reflective tool for further planning, as well as makes our learning visible.

  6. Hi Joanne. Love your blog and check it all the time. I've passed it on to many others already. Can you tell me where you buy mirrors to use in your class? I assume they aren't regular glass mirrors with sharp edges.

  7. Hi Ingrid...The ones that I use which appear to be similar to Joanne's were circle mirrors with bevelled edges from Ikea. Annette

  8. Thank you both for visiting the blog and passing it along to others.

    Yes I buy my mirrors from Ikea.

    The ones at the dollar store break easily, so if I use them then I glue them onto something like a wooden frame.

  9. Moitreyee ChowdhuryAugust 26, 2012 at 2:02 AM

    I love it! I would like some suggestion about how I can incorporate Reggio Emilia inspired process in the following situation.
    1. A 45 minute art class, for 18 to 3 years and 3 years to 5 years.
    2. The space is not permanent. I have it reserved for that time only.
    3. The projects can not be too messy.

  10. Hmmmm...

    That will be challenging, as part of the "process" is preserving the learning traces in the classroom to begin again the next time you're in the space. Another challenge is that the creative process is often messy before it is beautiful.

    How many children will you have for the 45 minutes? That matters too!! You don't want to force upon thirty students the same art task. It should be invitational, and for this reason you may consider having a few provocations around the room. This may mean a lot of carrying, since the space is temporary.

    Start small by bringing in a variety of materials for them to explore with:

    1) Loose parts (natural materials)
    2) Recycled materials
    3) Light and Shadow play (light table, mirrors, beads)
    4) High quality art materials (pastels, charcoal, sketch pencils, acrylic paint)

    I'm not sure if this is helpful!

    Thanks for visiting the blog,


  11. Hi Joanne! I am a new follower of your work and I am amzed by all the new techniques I am learning from you! This is very new to me! I have a question what ages do you teach?

  12. Thanks for your visit!

    I'm glad that you are learning from our blog!!

    We teacher children ages 3.5-6 years.

  13. Hi,

    it's me again, I am totally loving your insightful blog. I placed the link on this post in my article on documenting engagement.

    Keep it up, you are such an inspiration!


  14. Thanks so much Lana!!

    I am going to check out your article now!

    Thank you so much for sharing our link and for taking the time to comment.

    I'm glad that the blog is reaching out to other educators who are equally as passionate about the early years!!

  15. Hi Joanne,
    I was wondering where you purchased the taupe coloured tablecloloths for your classroom? I have blue tables and was hoping to cover them. I really like the look of your tables and it looks like pretty strong fabric.

    1. Hi Beth,

      I completely understand your motives of covering your blue tables!!

      I purchased them at Fabric Land. They are a strong plasticky fabric that can easily be cleaned. It came in a roll and we cut it according the sizes of our various tables.

      Thanks for stoping by,


  16. Thanks Joanne! I continue to be inspired by your blog and see some of your work on Pinterest. I am learning lots! Have a wonderful long weekend!

    1. Thanks Beth!

      I love Pinterest! So many fabulous ideas!

      Enjoy your weekend too,


  17. Hi Joanne
    I love your blog I am on here everday, you are so inspirational. I am wondering how you introduce an inquiry? Do you just leave things out? Have they brought up the topic earlier? Also what is inside the binders? Pictures of the children at the inquiry table, some of their work? Thanks so much I am trying to wrap my brain around this way of teaching it is new for me.

    1. Oh wow! Thank you for visiting the blog each and every day! That really makes me motivated to keep blogging and coming up with unique and useful material to share!

      I appreciate your kind feedback and comment!

      This way of teaching is new for all of us! I love your questions and have noted them in my little "blog ideas" book. I will try to post about them really soon!

      Thank you,


  18. I would love to read more about your Flower Inquiry. :)

  19. Hi Joanne
    Thank you so much for your generous postings. This fall I will be teaching FDK for the first time. Up until now I've taught grades 3 - 11! After 4 EQAO years, I am looking forward to creating a reggio - inspired environment.

  20. Hi Joanne! I had seen the new classroom set up (before and after shots) and was really impressed with the changes you had made (I actually showed some of your pictures and directed some of the Mongolian teachers that I was teaching to your blog- it was perfect for them to see how a learning environment can be set up to invite children to play and learn. But now I see these changes in action and children working in these spaces, and the transformation has come alive! It's really beautiful! I live and work in Mongolia, and part of what I do is train teachers and directors and people who work with children. Your blog posts fit right down that alley! Thank you :-)I haven't posted on my blog for a while, but if you are interested it is

  21. Hi Joanne
    I love you blog. Very beautiful pictures. Just wondering how you get the insides of the tin cans smooth so that children do not cut themselves on them.
    Thank you for the info.

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  23. I really love your ideas! I'm teaching grade one next year and have taught kindergarten for 4 years. I am really excited about transforming my room into a warm, comfortable environment. I really like the idea of using less colour and making the area warm and inviting. It's very inspirational to read ideas on the internet. I've been teaching for 14 years and I am always looking for ideas to inspire my students and me. I am so looking forward to ideas on inquiry learning and creating a warm comfortable space. Thanks so much for all your hard!