Setting up Learning Centres for Independent Inquiry
Focus of Learning
Drama Center
Emphasis on:
• Sociodramatic play-creating narrative
structures, understanding roles, and
taking perspectives
• Language and communication
• Literacy and math
• Collaboration and social skills
Furniture that will promote the drama. (A stage for a television
studio, a commercial or student-made theatre for puppets, a
screen and projector for shadow plays, tables and chairs for a
home setting, shelves for a store, etc.)
Props. (Large pieces of materials for making items of clothing,
glasses for changing characters, masks as appropriate to the
drama, a microphone, various kinds of puppets, etc.)
Literacy materials. (Tools for writing, environmental print that can
be incorporated into the various themes, etc.)
Math manipulatives that can extend the play. (Money, calendar,
calculators, and other objects as appropriate to the theme.)
Discovery Center (s)
Emphasis on:
• Science and math concepts
Inquiry skills:
• Technology (design technology and
structures and mechanisms)
• Problem-solving
• Literacy
• Language and Communication
Furniture to contain sand and water. (Sand, water table, large
clear bins for experiments, etc.)
Materials to promote various concepts – materials for
measurement. (Cups, different sizes of containers; clear tubing,
funnels, pulleys for flow; different shapes of containers for
molding in sand.) Also important are materials to promote
experimentation. ( A hose and shower head for a portable shower,
bars of soap for the water, blocks of ice, cardboard tubes for the
sand, etc.)
Another discovery centre might feature collections of objects
from the natural world. (Rocks, shells, seeds, nests, etc.)
Tools for studying collections include magnifying glasses,
measuring tools, etc.
A discovery centre or technology centre could include gears,
pulleys, different kinds of machines with moving parts, wind-up
toys, springing toys, etc.
Resources for reference and information. (Non-fiction books,
photos, etc.)
Writing/drawing tools.
Construction Center
Emphasis on:
• Science
• Technology
• Mathematics
• Language and Literacy
• Problem-solving
Blocks of all types, sizes, and shapes.
Various construction materials both commercial (Lego,
Marbleworks) and found (yogurt containers, heavy cardbard
tubes of various sizes, boards for ramps, molding such as cove
molding for ramps, etc.)
Workbench with tools. (Hammer, saw, goggles, etc.)
Props that support experimentation. (Mirrors for block structures
to create different views, plexiglass for creating different levels,
flashlights for creating shadows within structures, different
lengths of boards for making ramps and connections, etc.)
Props that encourage socio-dramatic play. (Models of people,
vehicles, animals, sea creatures, etc.)
Props that add aesthetics to buildings. (Round tubes, centicubes,
coloured tiles, etc.)
Literacy props. (Books for information, photos for reference,
writing tools, etc.)
Math props. (Measuring devices – rulers, timers.)

In grade 1, the themes will likely be from experiences at home and in the community.
By grade 3, the repertoire will expand to more fanciful themes.
The drama will evolve on its own but quite often is connected to stories that are read or experiences that
have occurred within and outside of the school situation.
Props themselves will stimulate a drama. It is important for children to create what they need for their
drama, and not rely only on commercial props.
Children of all ages love to play with natural materials – sand and water. Through using these natural
materials, children learn about the properties of the materials. Children use and develop inquiry skills
through exploration and experimentation.
The technology skills needed to create a structure from sand is quite different from that of wood. You can
do things with water that you can’t do with sand.
Collections of objects from the natural world stimulate curiosity and investigation. Such collections
naturally lead to comparing, sorting, and classifying.
Children need enough materials to use on their own to be able to build complex structures. Lack of
materials becomes frustrating and almost always results in friction when children try to share a basin with
very few pieces. It is better to have a lot of a few materials than few of a lot of materials.
When choosing materials think about their potential for learning, (blocks for fractions, symmetry, geometry;
marble works for speed, distance, time, etc.)

Focus of Learning
Math Manipulatives and Table Toys
Emphasis on:
• Math concepts
• Literacy – following directions
• Interpersonal skills
A range of games, puzzles, and brain-teasers to meet the
diversity of ability in the classroom.
Math manipulatives. (Base ten blocks, tangrams, pattern
blocks, geometric shapes, cuisneaire rods, calculators, tools for
measuring, etc.)
Visual Arts
Emphasis on:
• Painting
• Modelling Materials (clay, plasticene, play
• Collage
• Design Technology
• Problem Solving
• Literacy (representation of ideas,
communication, writing) and Math
(spatial concepts, patterning, symmetry,
Tools and equipment for painting, etc.
Modelling materials. (Mats, sculpting knives, materials for
printing and adding to sculptures, boxes for box sculpture, wood
for wood sculpture, etc.)
Collage materials. (Different sizes and colours of paper, feathers,
sequins, twigs, pebbles, nuts, bolts, string, etc.)
Quiet Areas
Emphasis on:
• Literacy – reading and writing
• Quiet games
• Pencil and paper tasks
Furniture to create an area for reading, researching information.
(Comfortable chairs/sofa, area carpet, book shelf, computer (s),
CD/tape player for listening).
Print and media materials – a range of reading materials.
(Magazines, non-fiction, poetry, photos, CDs, big books, class-
made books, etc.)
Tools for writing and resources for writing. (Thesaurus,
dictionaries, models of formation of letters.)
Setting up Learning Centres for Independent Inquiry continued
* Note: Communication and personal skills are embedded in all areas of the activities.

Children as young as seven are wizards at solving brain-teasers that adults find impossible. Flexible thinking
is one of a child’s most amazing talents.
Math manipulatives should be available at all times. When children have time to explore them they learn
about their properties, see patterns and relationships. Sometimes the math manipulatives are used for
Through the arts, children represent their understanding and interpretation of the world. All areas of the
arts require skill, as well as imagination.
There may be a time when children need direct instruction in technique, but this is not a matter of providing
models to copy. Children need time to explore materials and discover what they can do.
Quiet areas could include a reading corner, a writing/publishing centre, a listening centre, etc.
Literacy should take place at all of the learning areas. Children need a central place to access materials, and
to have materials at some of the centres in the classroom.