ELC News

Inquiry Based Learning – Rainbow Curiosities

It is not about the answer, but the process…

Over the last two weeks we have delved into an inquiry learning experience based on the children’s interest around rainbows. An inquiry-based teaching approach allows children to ask factual and exploratory questions created from personal interests. The teacher will support children to theorise, hypothesise, and wonder as well as provide opportunities for children to become more confident and autonomous problem solvers and thinkers.   


The Beginning

As we observed the children in their everyday learning we noticed a common interest and curiosity about the rainbows that appeared in our classroom through the windows. With the children, we started researching about how rainbows are formed and investigating what they already know.

By questioning the children, we found out their rainbow knowledge base.

“Rain and sun make a rainbow,” said Jessie.

However, this is not the case for the rainbows in our room, so I have been challenging the children’s thinking.

“How can there be a rainbow when there is no rain outside?”

This was the beginning of the rainbow investigation and without giving them the answer to the question, I wanted them to research and come up with their own theories as to how and why we had rainbows in our classroom.


Our First Small Group Project Work

The children researched how a rainbow is formed, then with perfect timing a rainbow appeared just above us. Before we are able to deepen our understanding of rainbows, we needed to find out what we already knew and use this as our basis. We used the coloured disks on the light table to make our own rainbows. The children focused on ordering the colours, using a rainbow as their guide. The children reflected upon past experiences, commenting how they learned rainbows were in fact circular and if you mix colours at the painting easel you can make new colours (primary and secondary colours).  

Having had discussions about rainbows with the children, we then had the opportunity to not only listen to their thoughts and curiosities, but provide the children with ways to unpack their ideas, challenge their thinking, create new theories and brainstorm potential learning pathways.


Extending Their Learning

Below are some of the questions and the children’s answers to our inquiry learning sessions.

How is a rainbow formed?

Xavier, “It has glass and water and then the sun comes through the glass and makes a rainbow.”

Zac, “When there is sun and rain. The rain comes down and hits the tree leaves and then they fall off the glass and make a rainbow.”

Abigail, “Rainbows come out when the sun and rain come out.”

How do rainbows get their colours?

Harriet, “They get their colours from the sky.”

Jessie, “They get their colour from the rain colour and the sky colour, then the rest of the colours from the flowers.”

Max, “People get a bucket and catch the rainbow and that’s how we make all the colours.”

Through this inquiry approach and building on the answers above, we will supply the children with a range of experiences to support their learning. Over the next few weeks we are interested to see whether their knowledge about rainbow deepens or changes.




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