Points of entry

Published by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2008 at 02:15 PM

Picture the whole body of possible knowledge as a globe. Children learning through projects begin at a very particular place — like reaching out and touching the tip of one finger to the globe … and that interest spreads in lines of inquiry … which branch into new lines of inquiry … and if you were given infinite time, you would eventually go everywhere, know everything — all venturing out from that one spot.

Everything is connected.

Project-based learning allows children to apply — and develop — their basic skills while pursuing a strong personal interest. It supports and enhances general knowledge (reading, math, reasoning, problem-solving, creative thinking) and it respects and honors individual interests and talents.

In a project, we talk about points of entry — a topic should offer many different places to enter, like a house with many doors. A group of children can find different ways to relate to the topic, which honors their varying interests, talents, and temperaments.

If the topic is the bakery, some children might be very interested in cooking, some in the business aspect (the cash register, the money), some in the building, some in the machines (oven, bread slicer), and etc.  In this way, a single topic can hold wide appeal for a large number of children — in a classroom or in a family.

As they study and learn, even though they may have a strong interest in a very particular part of the project, they share their enthusiasm and their knowledge so that at the end, every child knows everything that was learned.

Even a child working on a project by himself will, following a single interest, touch so many related pieces of knowledge and, following a single line of inquiry, open so many other lines of inquiry. There is no part of our world that lives in a vacuum; to reach out and touch one part that particularly interests you is like touching the surface of a still pool of water. Everything you discover leads on to new and interesting territory.

Everything is connected.

See also: Limits can be so… limiting


Comment by Sarah Jackson on November 24, 2008 at 06:02 PM

This is why I love the project based approach - because everything truly is connected. You can't separate the math from the design from the engineering from the cultural influences from the history from the science from the pure enjoyment of the result. Whew! So many artificial distinctions in what really is one organic whole with many interlocking components.

Everything is connected.

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 24, 2008 at 06:24 PM

a teacher asked me one time, what do you do if you have a child who never wants to leave the block area?

and my answer was, you might guess .. nothing.

but, but, but...!

but nothing. those different areas of the classroom are points of entry. they allow children to learn and interact in the way that pleases them most at that moment in time. some children vary how they want to play and learn many times within a single morning -- paint, dress up, write a story, build, etc. some children become fascinated with one particular way of learning/playing for days or weeks at a time. and some children are just block area, 24/7, every day all day.

but *each* part of the classroom should encapsulate *every* part of the classroom. what *can’t* you learn in the block area, after all? math? that’s what unit blocks are. science? that’s what building is. language arts? buildings need signs; constructions tell stories. dramatic play? the block area is a place where you can create an entire world. art? children can draw and paint in the block area, if you allow it. they can sketch their designs and then rebuild them permanently with recycled materials. they can photograph their work and explain it. if you encourage them.

a single square of fabric in the hands of a child can be a dancer’s skirt, a mother’s tablecloth, a superhero’s cape, a horse blanket, a bedcover, a tent, a fort, a ghost, a cave, a pool of water, the wind.

if we can just stop and relax and get down on the floor and remember what it is like to be a child, we could stop worrying about giving them *more* and remember that they are still young enough to be capable of pulling entire worlds out of virtually thin air.

everything is accessible to them from everywhere. because everything is connected.

Comment by Alison on November 25, 2008 at 12:20 AM

Lori, I like the way your write and what you write about. I was again reading around your site today - the more I read the more I like it :-) The new format has taken a bit to get used to. Are you using Wordpress now? I suspect I may migrate at some point, but I just don't want to complicate my blogging any at the moment.

I agree, everything is connected and a child can learn a huge range of things from just one area of interest. Of course some children are more like hummingbirds, dipping into lots of different flowers and sampling everything and that is good too :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 25, 2008 at 12:51 AM

hi alison, and thank you. :^)

i actually use squarespace (http://www.squarespace.com). i love it, but it’s not free. i’ve been wanting a three-column format for awhile and they just made them available with version 5.

i’m still working on organizing things .. it will look a bit different and maybe make it easier to find things. (or maybe not ;^)

some children *are* like hummingbirds, but i still think anything we can do to encourage them to extend their work draws out these benefits of project learning. it’s really about us making very deliberate choices to help them get the most out of their learning.

thank you again! :^)

Comment by Dawn on November 25, 2008 at 02:44 PM

Thank you Lori. The bakery example was great. I can see my son getting into the actual baking, recipes, etc... while my daughter might pursue how the grains are grown, flour made at the mill, local farming, etc..
Learning to expand my thoughts on projects. It made me think about how one thought leads to another and I find my self saying "What made me think of that?"

Comment by Angela on November 25, 2008 at 07:16 PM

wonderful. we have been experiencing this on a simplified level, as one project sparks interest in a related topic, and i try to offer broad subjects to explore. it's a zig-zag chase as i try to keep up with the shifting excitement my kids are experiencing! i would NEVER have thought a preschool-ager and kindergarten-ager could explore so many facets of so many topics!

we are working around the topic of "thankfulness" this week, and my girls took it in two wildly different directions - my younger child has been drawing, writing, making collages focused on being thankful for family. my older daughter decided to journal about what she sees as her basic needs - food, water, air, a home, and family. this led her into a long brain storming on what are universal needs - are we all so similar that we all have the same needs? who supplies those needs?

i love how you say "a house with many doors". i think that's a concept my girls can really wrap their brains around! thanks for the post!

Comment by Lori Pickert on November 26, 2008 at 01:34 AM

dawn, i’m glad -- thank you. :^)

angela, that is wonderful. please keep sharing your stories! and thank you. :^)

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