Focused Exploration

Focused Exploration

Focused Exploration is the time in the inquiry learning process when students are ready to investigate a challenge that will help them discover certain science concepts and encourage them to ask more questions. The teacher facilitates sharing of successful strategies and provides resources to guide students. During Focused Exploration, the teacher becomes more interactive, but still supportive, rather than instructive.

Elements of Focused Exploration

  • Exploration focuses on a specific task or challenge

  • Science Talks are used to share experiences and ideas, and even to introduce a challenge

  • Exploration becomes more teacher-focused and more teacher-directed, while still validating students' ideas and theories




Transitioning from Open Exploration to Focused Exploration:

How Does it Work?

During Open Exploration you introduced materials for students to explore, and offered them ample time to have undirected play with those materials. As you spend this time observing the students, you will begin to notice a few changes.

  • Some or all of your students will have gained confidence and familiarity with using the materials at hand

  • Some or all of your students may have specific questions about the materials that reveal their engagement

  • Some or all of your students will start to explore new uses for the materials on their own


Begin the transition when you notice these deliberate changes in your students' play. Notice what your students are interested in and let their interests guide your Focused Exploration.

For example:

  • If your students are becoming interested in building tall towers, begin Focused Exploration with a Tall Tower Challenge

  • If your students are becoming interested in building houses for their animals or people, begin Focused Exploration with an Enclosures Challenge

Building Structures, Light and Shadows and Exploring Water each comprises a few examples of Focused Exploration challenges that demonstrate different physical science features of the topic. Check here for a printable guide sheet to Focused Exploration.


  • Each class is different, each student is different.

  • Some or all of your students may be ready now, or in another week to transition to focused exploration.

  • Science inquiry is explored deeply and over time and inquiry is cyclical.


Be flexible to revisit old ideas, investigate new questions, and allow students to inquire throughout the school year - even if you are learning about a new science topic.

When you notice students who continue exploring topics they learned about at the beginning of the year, encourage them, and reflect with them!