Long-term investigations encourage critical thinking in math, science, literacy, and social and emotional skills. We integrate these skills through authentic real world experiences. Through these investigations children are encouraged to think, explore, and communicate in meaningful ways.
In one classroom, for example, the character David became the focus of the children and classroom. We started the year off by reading the story, “No David” by David Shannon. The children talked about David and played David every day so we knew there must be something about David that intrigued them. Was it his naughtiness? Was it his need for friends? As teachers we wondered if a Study of David might in turn support our children’s own self-identify and community membership. The children continued talking about David becoming their friend, so they decided that they needed to create a life-size David and teach him our classroom rules.
After creating David, the children wanted to make him feel that he was a part of our classroom so they incorporated him into everything that we did throughout the day. David received a cubby, an identity panel, a place on our meeting rug, a birthday panel, a hand-made nap blanket, his name on our sign-in sheet, and a place setting at our table for eating. The children even built David a life-size house that stands on our classroom porch after small creations were sketched and built supporting the building of the larger house.
Rosa Parks Early Childhood Education Center takes this same approach in many lessons.
Research shows that children perform better academically and socially when parents are involved in school activities. Therefore during long-term investigations, parents are encouraged to participate in the exploration of the investigation. Parents can contribute by having conversations, collecting materials and joining the class in activities.
The “David study” not only supported self-identify and community membership, but it also sharpened our skills in writing, problem solving, storytelling and measurement. Long-term investigation summary panels are created by each classroom at the end of their long-term investigation. Each panel’s documentation includes children’s words, pictures, and summary of the study. These panels are found outside each classroom for children, parents, and teachers to review and celebrate.