Children are encouraged to follow their interests through inquiry, investigation, and research. Various studies have supported the approach of giving children the opportunity to initiate their activities, which, according to the research, can enhance their sense of confidence, as well as, for example, help children acquire basic reading and math aptitude (when compared with children who were observed in a more traditional setting where teacher-directed learning was the focus).
A number of studies have documented the benefits of opportunities for children to direct their work and to follow their interests by self-selection of activities and exploration of materials. (Schweinhart, 1997).
Recent classroom studies based on children’s interests have been dogs, restaurants, airplanes and airports, buses, school, clothing stores, and the circus. Throughout the process of the project, which can last for a month or longer, other typical activities are still going on: blocks, sensory play, art activities, cooking, and more. Teachers are constantly evaluating and assessing the children’s work within the project.
When considering projects to foster in the classroom teachers consider many elements:
- Genesis of the project: goals for the project, the emergent curriculum.
- The social-emotional aspects of the work, including cooperation and enthusiasm.
- How the project continues to encourage critical thinking/intellectual solutions as it progresses; the way children collect information, follow-up questions and problem-solving ideas.
- Ways in which literacy and language can be incorporated as the project deepens such as skills that were encouraged, for example, speaking, listening, storytelling, reading, writing, and drawing.
- How math and numeracy can be an aspect of the project, for example, in block building and/or cooking.
- Ways that creative expression/visual and/or dramatic play will be part of the project, and supporting materials, such as books and photographs that may help deepen and sustain children’s interests.
- How fine and gross motor skills can be built during the course of the project, for example, working with small materials, writing signs, performance skills for possible presentation.
- Ways that science plays a role as a result of questions asked; if, for example, there was a premise, observation, drawing, graphs, and whether or not children were able to predict an outcome or a solution.