This past week our class visited Rebecca Bathhurst-Hunt‘s kindergarten classroom at George Jay Elementary School. She’s been teaching at George Jay for 6 years, and focuses on teaching the B.C. curriculum through a inquiry lens. Here are some of my notes and observations from our visit:

  • George Jay is a growing school, I think she said they had almost doubled the number of divisions since she started there.
    • It is pretty wild to think there are that many MORE students in central Victoria just in the past several years. I wonder what other kind of demographic changes these neighbourhoods are going through.
    • From the way she spoke about the changes, it sounds like the growth has some kind of impact on her work there, maybe more opportunities to try new things or be involved in setting the direction of the school? She recommends looking into the background of schools once we finally get our first contracts
  • In 2018, she published a book with Trevor MacKenzie – Inquiry Mindset, so she’s obviously super passionate about her pedagogy!
  • Her tips for taking on this type of teaching practice are to:
    • Tap into the knowledge bank in the families of the school community
    • Make sure you stay grounded in your teaching philosophy to not get overwhelmed – there are always new things to learn and try, workshops to take and ideas to explore but it can be overwhelming for a new teacher to try to do all that and also have work-life balance
  • She always starts the years with Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
    • This book is awesome, I read it almost every other night to my daughter. It, and Iggy Peck, Architect have wonderful stories, beautifully simple illustrations and delightful rhyming prose
    • I don’t have Rosie Revere, Engineer yet and this was a good reminder to pick that one up
    • She uses Ada Twist because Ada waits a long time to talk, but once she does she has a lot of amazing questions. It’s a good way to start little kids off with a patient and questioning mindset
    • She also told me there are simple chapter books too, which I will keep in mind for when my kids get older
  • In terms of using inquiry with kindergarteners, she emphasized how structured inquiry can be
    • They start all their explorations with questions, and she provides a lot of modelling, guidance and structure
    • There is a gradual release of responsibility but this takes the whole school year if they even get all the way there
  • The difference between structured inquiry and any other lesson is the essential question
    • In early stages, the inquiry question often comes from the teacher
    • Then they are given more choice in “controlled inquiry”
    • Guided and free inquiry follow with more responsibility
  •  She tries to have a lot of her classroom environment support asking questions
    • A wonder wall
    • Provocations in the room
    • She wants to environment to spark joy
  • They go on a lot of walking field trips
  • The Three Questions that can start inquiry are:
    • What do you see:
    • What do you know?
    • What do you wonder:
  • She tries to connect her students with curriculum even at this early age but using “I can..” statements to talk about Core Competencies
  • Some inquiry is just experiential, not connected to a greater project
  • A lot of their school activities are nature based – exploring outside, noticing things, reading about trees, using magnifying glasses
  • I would love to read her book to learn more about this approach to teaching. The whole visit actually made kindergarten more appealing to me!