Intentional observation in project work and inquiry - Mid-Pacific Institute

Art - Guillory

Intentional observation in project work and inquiry

Posted on January 12, 2017

by Ms. Guillory on January 12, 2017


Often as I walk I notice the ever-present cell phone, the head down completely engrossed and blocking out most of the rest of the world.

What's very curious to me as as we move throughout our project and inquiry work, there is continual conversation about our belief that inquiry is deeply rooted in our work at Mid-Pacific. Something we call "intentional observation" not just observing, but observing and noticing nuances, using one's senses and sensibility to observe, to see, to understand, gain perspective, and to build knowledge. If a child does not observe, there is nothing to inquire and wonder about. This is truly the heart of developing a curious child.


As we have begun this semester as teacher-researchers, and as I document this very important dispostion to intentionally observe, I think about just how important it is in this day and age that children look beyond a screen into their immediate and natural environments, their learning environments, and the tools that they use. In the work we do in the classroom, this is embedded in all that we do. Which surgeon would you rather have operating on you -- one that has read the book or one who has actual experience suppported by reading, observation, experience, and collegial discussions? This is the foundation we are setting for the child to look beyond the screen and see and intentionally observe his or her world, as this will be the child who will advocate and solve novel problems.

In preschool and kindergarten, we are building this dispostion with the children in many ways, both in ordinary moments and through our project work.


In the studio, the children are experiencing different drawing materials as a way to understand the language of drawing, but also as a way to build this dispostion of intentional noticing. As not all materials are the same, they can feel, look, and draw differently using differeng tools. These small details are imporant as children begin to understand this language as a way to express ideas.

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They carefully look and take time to notice the different tips and feel the way the materials draw and what types of marks that they can make. This time also allows them to reflect and observe actively as they work.


In preparing the children for our research trips, we are using our campus as a canvas to search for the treasures of Mid-Pacific, building on this dispostion to observe with intention. We slow down and sit with the children in different places, through the lens of smell treasures, sound treasures, feeling treasures, awakening the children's senses to observe the hidden, unseen treasures of a space beyond just their eyes.


Helping the children to develop the ways and strategies they use to observe.


In kindergarten atelier, we have begun to explore the language of clay. What are its nuances? How do we build with it? Create with it? In learning about this media and its tools, the children have to understand the nuuances of how to work with it and change it while also understanding what it can and cannot do.


These intentional observations of the clay help children not only to form relationships with the materials but also helps them to develop a process of observing and learning.

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In our inquiry we are re-visiting the two historical houses on our campus with the lens of details the children are seeing now that they didn't notice before. These new details or clues the children notice offer new perspectives and new ideas of a familiar place.


As an added twist we are also asking the children to slip into some metacognitve work, asking them to think about why they didn't see these details before, building on developing their own strategies toolkit for intentional observing and how to do it.

As we continue with our year, this very imporant thread will weave in and out of all the work that we do, developing the children's ability to see the world as a text and setting the foundation for life-long learning.