Building Capacity in the Early Years: Inquiry in Kindergarten

Area(s) of Focus: kindergarten
Division(s): Primary
Level(s): Kindergarten

Teachers will investigate the elements of an inquiry framework in kindergarten and will use resources to implement an inquiry classroom in their schools, thereby increasing educator capacity in the early years.

This project will aim to build capacity among the kindergarten teachers in order to improve the teaching and learning in the early years.  Teachers will collectively read and discuss the resource, THINQ Kindergarten: Inquiry-based learning in the kindergarten classroom. This resource will provide many examples of exemplary kindergarten practices in terms of inquiry. The teachers will use this resource, along with the interests of their students, to plan for an inquiry environment that also fosters the growth and development of students in terms of literacy and numeracy.

Team Members

  • Amy Bernard

    Renfrew County District School Board

  • Heather McEwen

    Renfrew County District School Board

  • Wendy Mahon

    Renfrew County District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

Through this project, we were able to build our capacity as early learning educators in building and fostering a successful inquiry learning experience for our students. We were able to create provocations based on student interests, as well as learned how to notice, name and document student learning. With our early learning team, we sketched out plans for inquiry investigations, documented the learning, and had professional discussions with each other around the successes and challenges of creating and maintaining an inquiry approach to teaching and learning.  

Activities and Resources

To start our plan, we read the book ThinQ Kindergarten: Inquiry-based learning in the kindergarten classroom by Colyer, Reimer, Watters and Watt. We divided the book into sections and met three times to discuss our thoughts on the book. We discussed the successes we experienced and the challenges we faced, and chose something from the book that we could try in our classes before the next meeting. In addition to trying something new from the book, the early learning team worked together to co-plan and collaborate in sketching out an inquiry.

We purchased resources through our TLC project grant that helped to foster this environment in our classrooms. We purchased manipulatives that were multi-purpose and that would enable students to use them to support their inquiry investigations. We also purchased a wide selection of picture books to use to spark and carry forward student investigations.

In order to work on organizing our documentation surrounding the learning, we explored the Brightspace app. We began to use this as a way to collect and organize the documentation around student learning.

Unexpected Challenges

One of the challenges we faced was surrounding the use of the Brightspace app. Our classrooms did not have enough iPads that could support the app. We also found that initially students wanted us to take pictures of everything that they had done. By asking students “Why should we document this for you?,” students began to reflect on the items they were wanting documented. We also found it difficult to manage the time that it takes to document the learning in this way. Our board supported having our ECE partners join in our learning. It would have been a challenge to facilitate this learning without their support.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Amy: Having the opportunity to work together as a Kinder Team to develop and discuss our ideas. We had time to ask each other the questions “What?,” “So what?” and “Now what?” when developing inquiry learning opportunities. We were able to take our learning from ThinQ Kindergarten and apply it to our classroom.

Wendy: Creating Questions of the Week and different provocations to help students think more deeply about topics. We also reorganized our space to better meet the needs of our students – placing more materials in the hands of students. We have ideas of how we will make changes next year to our documentation, and how we will create spaces for the students to display their work that they are most proud of, allowing them to develop metacognitive and critical thinking skills.

Heather: Being brand new to kindergarten and the new FDK program, this Kinder Inquiry has been an invaluable experience. Having the opportunity to learn practices from more experienced teachers and ECEs, and to know that support was available, really has been reassuring.  Inquiry-based learning, and assessment and documentation of the learning, is very different when it needs to be customized to children ranging in ages from three to six, with accompanying developmental stages and behaviour concerns. While the challenges are constant and many, having done some planning together and then implementing and reflecting, there is no one way or one right way to go about FDK. Flexibility and adaptability are as important for the adults in the classroom as they are for the children!  


We plan to share our project with our school staff at our final staff meeting of the year, and also hope to share this professional learning with our school board’s Curriculum Program Co-ordinator. We have also shared some of the photos from our inquiries on our school Twitter feed.

Project Evaluation

Amy: I believe that the project was a success. We were able to add time with our teaching partners to develop, plan, implement and document learning opportunities. This time would never be available to us without the TLC funding. During our book club discussions, we questioned our thinking and deepened our pedagogy. This project and the resources that we added to our classrooms and school will continue to be utilized for many years.

Wendy: I learned so much from our time together. We were able to sit down with the other kindergarten teachers in our school and our Early Childhood Educators! Without this time to meet, it is extremely difficult to meet, especially with our teaching partners. Thanks to some additional funds from support staff in the board, we were able to do that so that we could truly work as a team. We developed stronger professional relationships and deepened our understanding of the curriculum and how inquiry works.

Heather: It takes a team to deliver FDK and I am thankful for having this dedicated time to connect and plan with my (not in possessive sense … we are a team and the school has three teams) ECE, as well as with the other Kinder Teams at the school. The book was easy to read and filled with easy to implement suggestions, which we used. Our classroom physically looks very different as a result of this inquiry, and we were able to deliver more enriched learning with the resources we were fortunate to purchase. We wonder how we can facilitate the transition of Year 2 students moving on to Grade 1 where the structure of the day is or may be very different.

Resources Used

THINQ Kindergarten: Inquiry-based learning in the kindergarten classroom by Jill Colyer, Joan Reimer, Deb Watters and Jennifer Watt