University Primary School
Department of Special Education
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Welcome to the University Primary School on-line curriculum entitled, “Investigating Our Surroundings.” Two project investigations, Studying Construction, and Exploring Communication took place in the combined K/1 classroom during the 2000-01 academic year. The students range in age from 5 to 6 years old.

At University Primary School the teachers use a Project-Approach to design emergent curriculum (Katz & Chard, 2000). The distinguishing feature of the approach is that very young children are engaged in investigation. Each investigation is an opportunity for students to pursue their own questions. The difference between full and partial inquiry is tthat in full inquiry, there are opportunities for students to pursue their own questions (National Academy of Sciences, 2000, p. 28). Inquiry promotes children’s natural curiosities and develops environments where children are intrinsically motivated to learn. “An emphasis on inquiry asks that we think about what we know, why we know, and how we have come to know” (National Academy of Sciences, 2000, p. 6).

Investigating Our Surroundings narrates the stories of how children delved into two aspects of the world around them, construction and communication. Through these project narratives, the readers will follow the process of inquiry, see examples of students’ work, gain insight into the students’ thinking, and examine how the teachers reflect upon the students’ newly gained knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Children had numerous opportunities to work at their own level, in their own interests, and in their preferred learning style. They were also challenged to move beyond their comfort zones, gain new levels of awareness, develop richer vocabulary, support their opinions, and problem-solve to accomplish their individual and group goals.

We hope you can share in the vicarious experiences of the children and enjoy the tour of the project investigations.


Katz, L. & Chard, S. (2000). Engaging children's minds: The project approach (2nd ed.). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp.

National Research Council (2000). Inquiry and the national science education standards. A guide for teaching and learning. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.



© 2001. University Primary School. Department of Special Education. University of Illinois.
All rights reserved. Credits.