Inquiry Curriculum

The goal of the Curriculum at the CDL is to use the process of “inquiry” to create a classroom culture that builds children’s confidence in their abilities to NOTICE, WONDER, EXPLORE, and DISCOVER. 

What is “Inquiry”?

“Inquiry is an approach to learning that involves a process of exploring the natural or material world, and that leads to asking questions, making discoveries, and rigorously testing those discoveries in the search for new understanding.” – National Science Foundation

Why use Inquiry?

Young children are naturally curious about the world around them. Inquiry curriculum allows children to explore their environment in developmentally appropriate ways (e.g., hands-on, trial and error, and using their senses). Current research on the effects of inquiry curricula find that it promotes science knowledge, problem-solving skills, and motivation among young learners (Lin et al., 2021; Samarapungavan et al., 2011).

Notice Wonder Explore Discover cycle

What is the Teachers Role?

In using the inquiry curriculum, teachers help co-create knowledge with the children. Teachers scaffold the young child’s learning by prompting them to think more deeply, ask questions, and work together to answer those questions.

CDL Model


Encouraging children to be good observers of the materials, events, and people that surround them in their daily lives.

In this example, the teacher helped the child notice that a dried leaf from a sunflower was very crinkly.


Encouraging children to be curious about things and help to identify what thy may want to find out more about.

In this example, the teacher prompted the child to wonder why this leaf felt different from the leaves that had fallen from a tree.

A child looking at leaves in hand


Developing the skills and confidence needed for children to actively explore and investigate to find answers.

In this example, the teacher and child explored the differences in texture when crumbling different types of leaves.

A child breaking apart leaves


Developing new understanding of the world that is deeper and more meaningful than before.

In this example, the teacher helped the child explain to another child that leaves have different "crinkling properties".

A child looking at crumbled leaves on the ground

The example of the inquiry curriculum model presented above is courtesy of Claire Buckley, a current intern here at the CDL.