Research Projects & Studies

At any one time, teachers are likely to be working with all the children, a small group of children, or an individual child on a particular research project or study.

We call something a research project if it requires continuous collaborative planning by teachers and children; asks each child involved to take some responsibility for the work that must be done; allows individuals to choose their own way of contributing to a community effort; and integrates a wide range of expressive languages.

For example, the whole group might be putting together a “Welcome Book” to give to new Children Firsters at our spring Open House, planning and preparing a Stone Soup Feast for their families, or researching veterinarians in order to build a pretend vet’s office. Small-group projects might follow from three older children’s fascination with skyscrapers, or three younger children’s preoccupation with a family’s new baby. An individual project might be crafting a graduation “memory keeper” surprise for your family, like Zella’s replica of her favorite Children First place, Creation Station.

In 2017, Children First teachers worked with the pedagogical consultant Pam Oken-Wright to learn more about ways to join and support children’s research into “big ideas.” The compelling research on “Bad Guys” that developed that year became the subject of Donna’s book, “Pursing Bad Guys: Joining Children’s Quest for Clarity, Courage and Community.

We use the words “research study” when we invite the children to focus on particular content over time. A study of plants and seeds would involve planting, predicting, measuring, observational drawing and experiments that could last for several months. A study of skin colors might involve interviewing families about their ancestry; matching our skin colors to paint chips; mixing our colors with paints; and painting self-portraits and portraits of friends using the paints we have mixed. A short-term study might involve observing and drawing visiting earthworms, tadpoles, or caterpillars.

Research projects and studies are mutually engaging and challenging for teachers and children; offer rich opportunities to work on the goals parents and teachers have set for individual children; and perhaps most of all, build the wonderful sense of community and shared history that contribute to children’s sense of well-being in school.