PUBLISHED: Monday, March 16, 2020 by JO

Susan Stacey


Susan took the time to talk with us about inspiration, play, and documentation.

Susan Stacey has worked in the field of early childhood for over 35 years as an early childhood educator, director, and practicum advisor. She obtained her Master’s degree at Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, California. Stacey frequently presents across North America about emergent curriculum, reflective and responsive practices, inquiry, documentation, and the role of the arts in ECE.

She teaches adult ECE students at the N.S. College of Early Childhood Education and belongs to several professional organizations such as NAEYC and the Canadian Childcare Federation. Stacey has presented frequently at NAEYC conferences and has been published in Young Children, Young Exceptional Children, and Exchange.

Susan’s new book with Redleaf Press, Inquiry-Based Early Learning Environments, takes an in-depth look at children’s inquiry. What does inquiry look like in early childhood settings? How does the environment affect children’s inquiries and teachers’ thought processes? Inquiry-Based Early Learning Environments examines inquiry in all its facets, including environments that support relationships, create a culture of risk-taking in our thinking, support teachers as well as children, include families, use documentation as a way of thinking about our work, and of course, include the physical environment and all the objects and spaces within it.

Can you share a brief timeline of your educational and professional life?

This would take four pages of résumé! Briefly, I have worked in ECE since 1985 in positions such as early childhood educator, director, college instructor, author, coordinator of professional development, presenter, and teacher educator.

What is an optimal environment for supporting inquiry-based early learning?

The early years environment will ideally be one with trained ECEs who observe and reflect while remaining flexible and responsive to children. This involves thinking through and discussing what we have seen and making the wisest decision that we can in order to uncover and respond to children's ideas, thinking, and strategies. This environment should be playful and joyful, nurturing children's natural curiosity, using interesting materials that change in response to children's questions and interests.

Why is play so important when considering inquiry?

Through play, children's curiosity in the world becomes visible, as long as someone is paying attention to this curiosity. When we have an idea of what is engaging to them, we can build an approach that captures their imagination and their innate competence. Learning across all domains occurs during play as long as the environment is well equipped with loose parts, materials from nature, and “bits and pieces” that can be used in many ways.

How does inquiry-based thinking help children over time?

Through inquiry, children learn how to learn — how to find out more. They are motivated to be ever-curious, always asking questions. This is in contrast to rote learning of facts, which will not be pertinent over time. Inquiry provides a way to learn about anything, to become lifelong learners.

What motivated you to write this book?

I am fascinated with how children learn and the joy I see when children find out something for themselves. It is easy to set up an environment that nurtures inquiry, and I wanted to support—in the practical sense—how to develop inquiry-based environment.

Why are educators encouraged to document moments of inquiry?

Documentation makes learning visible as well as the joy and engagement involved in that learning. This is invaluable when sharing with parents, other educators, and the community at large. It respects and validates the thinking of young children and is a mode of professional learning for educators.

What is the biggest misconception about inquiry-based early learning?

That children do whatever they want! What is actually happening is intentional, responsive teaching, where the teacher is watching, thinking carefully, and providing an environment that will support the children.

More from Susan Stacey:

Published: March 16, 2020