Investigation time in K1
Chris Fensom, Former Infant School Principal, Dover Campus
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers (1928–2003)
If you happen to walk through the K1 classrooms and shared play spaces on a Tuesday or a Thursday morning, you will be witness to a hive of joyful activity as our 88 K1 students busily engage in the serious ‘work’ of childhood. Collaborating to build a volcano in the sand, conversing in Chinese in the role play area while drinking tea with Lăo Shī, tending the chilli plants in the garden, putting on a puppet show or creating a model from recycled materials are examples of the varied play-based, child-initiated experiences that happen during ‘investigation time.’ These activities honour the interests and autonomy of young children and help to develop their social and communication skills, their emotional resilience, their creativity and their ability to solve problems collaboratively. Teachers are on hand to facilitate and support the children’s learning through skilful, provoking questioning and guided interaction.
Of course, explorations like these happen at other times during the week but the unique aspect of these twice weekly ‘investigation times’ is that children are free to explore each other’s classrooms, interact with students from other classes and get to know all of the K1 teachers and teacher assistants. Many positive benefits are gained by enabling students to interact with children from other classes, particularly the development of social and communication skills. They also have the opportunity to use resources and explore centres and activities that are set up in other classrooms.
In addition to the introduction of shared ‘investigation time,’ the development of the K1 learning spaces has been a focus over the last few years with the aim to make them more welcoming and homely. Wooden furniture and comfortable settees help to create an informal atmosphere that we believe helps children transition more smoothly from home or pre-school to ‘big school.’
However, the arrival of our new wooden tables and chairs at the start of this year left us with a quite a problem as we needed to find a home for 88 plastic chairs and 32 tables that were still in good condition. As our mission is to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future, we could not just quietly dispose of these valuable resources. Therefore, Tiara Lesslar, Head of K1, set out to find an organisation who could make use of our tables and chairs through the local organisation Pass it On. Shortly after posting on their website, Tiara was contacted by Evelyn from Viriya Community Services, which is a charitable organisation that provides community and social services to low income families in Singapore, regardless of their race and religion. Very soon the tables and chairs were on their way to a new home in a local pre-school.