Driving Inquiry (aka: How I Learned To Knit)

Inquiry is the main driving force in kindergarten classrooms throughout Ontario. And after a year and half of this, I feel like “I’ve got” inquiry. You want to learn about turtles? Cool, let’s go look for books and I’ll spend the afternoon sitting on a carpet with you while I hint at the strategies that you’ll need to pick up to get the information you’re looking for. You want to learn to make a snowman? Sure, let’s go outside and play in the snow all afternoon. You want to learn about space? We’ll find some fun and educational YouTube videos and see what we can figure out.

I still get butterflies in my stomach when a student asks me something that I have no idea about. I now automatically say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together,” but that wasn’t always the case. That comes with building a good relationship with your students. I think it’s important that we tell our students, honestly: “I don’t know.” Those are powerful words, ones that kids need to hear from grown ups. I don’t have every answer. Nobody can. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel a little queasy when I don’t, because I want to be helpful. I want to be the best guide for them possible. I want to be what they need. But it can usually be solved with saying, “I don’t know, let’s figure it out.”

Then yesterday, it wasn’t.

SP came over to me and wanted to talk about how clothing was made. We discussed the factories that clothing can be made in, and compare it to the factories we watched food being made in (the kids were obsessed with clips from the TV Show How It’s Made for about a month, so it was an easy point of reference). That wasn’t good enough, though. How do we make clothes? How do we knit? And can I teach them to do it?

SP demonstrates our loom and shows how snake knitting is done.
SP demonstrates our loom and shows how snake knitting is done.

I began to sweat. I am not a craft lady. I have no idea how to knit. I’ve never done that in my life. I don’t have any of those materials available (and to be honest, I’m not sure what materials are needed off the top of my head). I don’t know anybody who does that I could even call and beg, “Hey, you mind if I borrow something for kindergarten?”  So I spent that whole second Nutrition Break searching Pinterest and found my answer: cardboard rolls and popsicle sticks. I gathered all of those materials (actually very easily accessible in our pantry, woo!) and in 40 minutes, I had constructed a loom and had taught myself to knit. Ten minutes later, the kids were doing it, too.

SP proudly shows the necklace that was made.
SP proudly displays a necklace.

For something we threw together in ten minutes, I’m impressed with how it’s turned out. I mean, as far as effort, that all needs to be credited to SP – that student diligently sat next to me on the carpet for a day and a half while we tried to figure out the ins and outs of snake knitting, and it wasn’t always easy. We didn’t even quite know what it would be until we pulled it out, and SP said, “Look, it’s like a necklace!” Beauty. Now, knitting necklaces is all the rage in my classroom – boys, girls, four year olds, six year olds, 28 year olds … we’re all doing it.

PW knits like a pro.
PW knits like a pro.

And I have to say, I’m really impressed. Some necklaces are short; some are incredibly long; some are missing some stitches (is that what they’re even called? Oops!). But I mean, at the end of the day, what’s most important is this: how many 4 year olds do you know that can knit?

So thanks, kiddos – I’m psyched about my new life skill.

PS: Thank you all for being so patient with me. I was knee-deep in our reporting period. Now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I’ll be continuing to update this as regularly as possible.

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