Finding Topics for Class Investigations

A Reggio Emilia inspired program doesn't have a pre-set curriculum or themes.  Therefore, each year looks very different in each classroom, as the investigations and topics are based on the interests of the children and teachers.  But really, how are these investigations chosen?

As the children continue to familiarize themselves with the classroom, routines, teachers and each other, the teachers listen, observe, record what they see the children doing.  They observe the children's play, interactions with each other and the materials, and questions they ask.  They might (especially in our oldest classroom) invite the children to offer suggestions for an investigation.  The teachers then collaborate to further develop this topic into an investigation.  Sometimes an investigation comes from a spark, such as finding an insect on our playground or a visitor to our classroom.  Other times, an investigation bubbles up from the repeated materials chosen or play themes the children are involved with.

We include a multitude of ways to learn about a topic, including participating in activities, sensory play, scence or math experiences, cooking, field trips, visitors or demonstrations by special guests, dramatic play, and art experiences such as clay, sketching, drawing, writing, painting and sensory experiences.  This allows children to investigate a topic or idea through their play.  

We observe and document as the children explore the topic, evolving the exploration into new avenues or areas the the children inquire and wonder.  Teachers are not seen as "all-knowing" or the "designers of the theme"; instead, they are co-constructors of knowledge alongside the children, who are viewed as capable and knowledgeable in their own right.  There is less of an emphasis on learning "all the right answers" and more emphasis on the process of trying something, wondering more about it, and trying something different.  In this way, children come to their own knowledge through exploration.