Scientific Investigation Led by Curiosity

The Baby Dinosaur That Lives in the Chalk:
Investigation Through the Scientific Method

“How can we help children find meaning in what they do, what they encounter, and what they experience? And how can we do this for ourselves? In the search for meaning, we must ask: “Why?”, ”How?”, and “What?” These are the key questions that children constantly ask. For both adults and children, understanding means being able to develop an interpretive theory, a narrative that gives meaning to the world around them.” – Carla Rinaldi

 

So often, we are quick to tell children what a material is meant for or how to use it. At Kinderoo Children’s Academy, we know better than to do this… otherwise, we would strip the wonder, magic, and possibility from everything we offer.

We originally wondered how children would use a simple material, chalk, when presented in a manner that promoted curiosity. What can chalk be used for other than writing on cement or chalkboards? Can chalk be used for purposes other than to write? Can chalk be integrated into other languages? We presented the children with several different textures to explore with the chalk, however, we were surprised when the children began to use the chalk for dramatic play, which quickly transformed into a science experiment, as they attempted to discover what existed inside of an egg-shaped chalk. 

(At the last minute, one of our directors had found a batch of egg-shaped chalk that she thought would be a ‘fun’ addition. Little did we know that the shape of the chalk would influence the children’s interactions with it!).

Upon finding the eggs, O. and A. began to discuss amongst themselves: 

“How do we crack this open?” 

“Is this chalk?… Yea, it is chalk!” 

“Something is in here.” 

“Maybe it’s a baby dinosaur.” 

“Let’s crack it.”

The children then used various tools to break the eggs open, creating their own game that lasted 40 minutes, a significant amount of time for this age. As they did so, they were observed encouraging one another and sharing all the tools, and their ideas, on how to break open the egg to find out what was inside.

This was a beautiful example of how important it is to let children wonder sometimes without direction. O. and A. spent 40 minutes engaging in scientific thinking and processing. As they observed a material (egg-shaped chalk), they began to ask questions (“What’s inside? How do we crack it?”). They then developed a hypothesis (there is a baby dinosaur in it) and began to use multiple tools to experiment on the egg, attempting to break it open. In the end, they realized there was nothing in it, “Where did the baby dinosaur go?” However, the residue was fun to play with (creating somewhat of a paint after being dumped in water from the younger children). 

Through truly listening to the children and encouraging their own exploration, rather than ‘teaching’ them what chalk ‘can’ be used for, we uncovered something so much more meaningful. In creating a game amongst each other, these young children engaged in a level of scientific thinking, unguided, that is comparable to how adults research (for 40 minutes!). The children demonstrated the beautiful nature of curiosity and how children are natural researchers, co-constructing their answers through play. Furthermore, through documenting these interactions and words, we were able to bring new life to the children’s research, leaving its trace forever. We can reflect back with the children on what they were thinking, why they made the decisions that they did, and gain information on their final conclusions. We are also able to share this with adults, educators, and parents, demonstrating the high level of competency and capability that children possess, especially when provided the freedom and safety to inquire about their own wonderings… to make discoveries for themselves. Through representation and exchange, I would dare say that we learned more than the children in this experience.

Contributing Educators: Luisa Simmons, Diana Hurtado, Chelsie Braun

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