This post lists a year of research topics that focus on the way young children naturally learn. They play, they’re curious, they try things, and they see what happens.
Well planned kindergarten thematic units or investigations have lots of interesting objects and things for students to raise questions about, to observe and investigate using all of their senses, to compare, sort, classify, order, describe characteristics and properties of, and to draw their own conclusions about.
Open-ended activities that don’t have prescribed outcomes stimulate ideas, stir up the imagination, provoke thinking in children and extend students’ vocabulary.
Some kids like to explore their ideas alone, others love working in groups. Avoid giving students a stack of theme worksheets about a topic to fill in.
Choose research units based on:
- Science and social studies learning outcomes
- Your local environment
- Author studies
Depending on where you live, check the local parks to see what programs they offer before choosing your themes.
Here on the west coast of BC, parks offer inexpensive field trips about slugs, bats, squirrels, tide pools, salmon and more, to local schools and homeschooling families.
Suggestions for topics
The following research ideas:
- Are as much as possible, centered around science investigation, math activities and recording of observations
- have been tested and work well with young children
- are categorized according to the seasons
- are not all studied every year
- have varied amounts of time spent on them depending on class interest
- have only the highlights listed below
Making Friends One Day at a Time – This is a good introductory topic but does not focus on math, science or investigation nor does it have a goal of providing provocations.
Helping children learn the skills of making friends early in the school year, discovering how families differ and introducing literature to reinforce friendship building skills help children transition into kindergarten.
Spiders – great to study, especially when the egg hatches or you bring a bunch of baby spiders into the class.
Sunflowers - Tall and impressive; thy provide lots of opportunities for measurement activities and observation.
General seasonal changes – weather study; autumn vegetable studies
Apples – counting, sequencing; graphing and more; cooking applesauce; visiting an apple farm; include a mini unit on wasps; Apple math/literature connection
Squirrels – this study often coordinates with local park offerings; characteristics of squirrels; what they eat; different kinds of squirrels; native and non-native, life cycles, habitats
Pumpkin Math - cooking pumpkin muffins; weighing the pumpkin; measuring the diameter with a string; counting seeds in piles of ten; growth cycle of a pumpkin; graphing, “Who likes pumpkin pie?” Check it out here…
Leo Lionni – author and literature study, comparison of his books
Salmon – Great if you are near a salmon spawning river and can actually visit it; life cycle of the salmon. For early childhood and kindergarten children, keep animal themes to ones that the children can actually investigate. See the living creatures in the classroom post…
General seasonal changes – and weather study, animals in Winter, observing real birds at a bird feeder are more apt to connect children to an investigation than studying a bear hibernating from books and DVDs. Winter link….
Color/Light - a topic that integrates the sparkle and glitter of the holiday season; what is light? where does light come from? sources of light; transparent and opaque papers; reflections, bending light
Water - Winter is the perfect time to experiment with water, snow, and ice; the water cycle; properties and states of water; floating and sinking; dissolving things; how water changes things, fill your water center with snow and let the children investigate.
Mapping – literature based play using Rosie’s Walk; hands-on activity for the concept of viewpoint, playing with story maps; what is a map? making a map; introduction to the shapes of, and the vocabulary of Canada and provinces.
Nursery Rhymes – Use nursery rhymes to focus children’s attention on science and math inquiry e.g. Humpty Dumpty – bring in a chicken, incubator, or chicks to talk about animals that lay eggs, study a visiting chicken, hatching eggs in an incubator.
Rocks - an earth science study – examining school yard rocks; lots of classifying: shiny and dull, small, smaller, smallest, how are they different? the same?
Jan Brett – author and literature study
General seasonal changes – and weather study
Spring flowers – How are they the same? different? What do we notice about bulbs? Art ideas…
What is Air? – experiments with air, making wind toys, What can air do?
Pond study – bring pond water into the classroom, studying pond water, frog life cycle, what do animals need to stay healthy?
Insects - so available and fun to study, characteristics of common bugs, how are they helpful, how are they alike and different
Compost / Worms / and Gardening – what do plants need? grow plants, measure their growth, learn about the environment, study worms and other animals who live in the compost, how are worms helpful?
Recycling – awareness of and measuring how much garbage the class generates, of what can be recycled, reused, and put in the compost… link here…
Eric Carle – author and literature study
Early Summer (June)
General seasonal changes – and weather study
Slugs – very abundant on the west coast, such wonderful vocabulary; kids love learning that scientists call a slug a Gastropod which means “stomach foot”
Wildlife Trees - instead of studying the whole forest, concentrate on the concept of a wildlife tree, what is it? what lives on it? why is it important to have them?
Tide pools – the ocean is so big, so focus on one little part, the tide pool. Take the kids and their parents to a tide pool. Celebrate a year-end picnic at the same time. Everyone explores, shares and learns about the tide pool environment.
Interspersed between research topics are special math days such as:
Special Shape Days
One Hundred Day
Want to learn more about the following?
- Presenting activities to students in ways that improve their ability to make sense of measurement and data concepts
- Encouraging children to ask questions
- Allowing students to touch and investigate
- Directing the children to focus on a specific topic that encourages them to find more information from books and other sources
- Presenting opportunities for collections, sorting, classifying, comparisons and/or testing
- Making activities available that include observations about quantity, size, position and/or proportion
- Natural ways to increase students vocabulary
If yes, check out my sample lesson page here…