Rolling Into Investigations: Customizable Studies in Preschool
In October, we kicked off the Balls Study in The Hub, the Teaching Strategies online social community. For 5 weeks, I guided our teacher members as they implemented this study in their own classrooms. Through videos, tips, and suggestions, teachers exchanged ideas and explored the many ways they could adapt the study to best meet the strengths, needs, and interests of the children in their classes. As teachers shared their own experiences, it became clear how versatile studies can be. The same study can take on different shapes in various communities and classrooms. This flexibility is a powerful tool for educators to make sure that learning is both meaningful and captivating for all children.
But what does customizing a study mean?
It means that the same study topic investigated in one classroom can play out quite differently in another classroom, all because of the classroom community’s unique resources, experiences, and environment.
For instance, with the Balls Study, children in one class might dive into a variety of ball games, such as soccer and basketball, discovering the exciting world of sports. Their learning is not limited to the classroom; it spills over into outdoor areas such as playgrounds and parks, where children get hands-on experiences with all kinds of balls.
In another class, the children might instead focus on making their own balls. Here, children’s time outdoors is spent collecting natural treasures, such as leaves and twigs, to craft their very own special balls, igniting a deep love for nature. They might roll these handcrafted gems down slopes or across the floor, turning the classroom into a hub of creativity.
Another class might not be able to spend much time outdoors. Instead, they investigate cooking projects that focus on round foods (Meatballs! Cheesy puffs! Oranges!) that are shaped like balls, or they explore using balls to create art, such as painting with marbles or sculpting with balls of clay.
The main idea here is that it is the same study transforms into different yet incredible and meaningful adventures. This is where customizable studies shine—when teachers adapt the exploration and investigation to fit the resources they have; the unique character of their environment; and the particular strengths, needs, and interests of the children in their classrooms.
So, why is customizing studies so crucial for young children? The answer is simple: young children are individual learners, and how they learn must reflect their unique interests, needs, and learning styles.
Here are five specific ways that customizing your study benefits the growth and development of children in preschool classrooms.
- Enhances Relevance: Tailoring a study to a child’s lived experiences and local community connects the topic directly to a child’s world. It connects learning with playing, the ideal combination for young children.
- Encourages Engagement: Customizing studies allows children to become active explorers. They can delve into topics that genuinely excite them, igniting their curiosity and sparking a love for learning.
- Facilitates Inclusivity: Studies allow you to design individualized learning experiences that welcome all children, each with their distinct abilities and passions. This ensures every child’s voice counts.
- Permits Flexibility: Studies can be customized to take advantage of any resources available in your unique community, be it the bustling cityscape, the peaceful countryside, or any other setting.
- Develops Life Skills: Customized studies teach practical life skills relevant to children. Whether it is uncovering local ecosystems, understanding community needs, or celebrating cultural diversity, these studies lay the foundation for life beyond the classroom.
Striking a Balance in Daily Activities
While studies already provide diverse experiences for children, it’s important to maintain a balance with other daily activities. Remember, not all children share the same interests, and you never want a study topic to take over your whole day. So, ensure you don’t concentrate exclusively on your current study topic and overlook other opportunities for engaging and interacting with children throughout the day.
Balancing the study ensures that all children in your class have an opportunity to explore what truly sparks their curiosity. This approach promotes rich and diverse learning experiences while still offering the benefits of investigating a particular topic.
Customizable studies are the key to unlocking every child’s potential. They offer a unique path of discovery tailored to each child’s needs. Whether you are taking advantage of a unique community connection or adapting experiments to suit children’s abilities, customization ensures that each young learner’s education speaks to them personally. This approach is not just about nurturing young minds for today: it is about preparing them for a future filled with curiosity, creativity, and endless possibilities.