The project “Little home researchers” takes place in co-operation with the Estonian Reading Association.
The year was 2010 when teacher Heli Prii and her 8 and 9-year-old students from Paide took part in the local contest of home researches. Their research was titled “How did we get our names?”. Heli will show you this very important research paper which looks like a book.
Her elementary school kids did not feel themselves very confident because the contest was meant for older students. So Heli decided to begin with a contest for 9-12 year old family history lovers herself. She asked to join in her colleagues Eve Krais and Tiina Kivimäe. It has been so for 9 years already – primary school children aged 8-12 nationwide have been encouraged to write research papers on their family history.
The project is definitely innovative in today’s educational landscape although the subject matter is history. The innovation can be seen in many aspects. For one it fills in the gaps that have been created by the amount of virtual socialization. Important aspects of the work process are direct interaction between different generations, the ability to listen and record the information received and to pass it on. The research also teaches the different aspects of literacy like dealing with various sources like photos, maps, files and official archive material but also information available on the internet.
At this age the big challenge from the literacy point is the ability to follow the mandatory guidelines when composing text, presenting source material, highlighting the work process and explaining the way and reason of reaching certain conclusions.
The research paper has to be submitted in handwriting. This challenges the young researcher to manifest the tradition of manual writing. We have had the privilege to read through all the papers children have sent to our contest. To evaluate young researchers’ effort we also write our assessments by hand.
The outcome of the project is the pupils’ written research papers that are presented in schools and also at a national conference. We call it the recognition day. All the little home researchers with their tutors are invited. Among the tutors there are always family members – parents, grandparents and even older siblings.
Children and teachers have different workshops, lectures, visits of museums or walking tours with guides. And of course we award the best authors and teachers. The best projects are presented in .pdf format on the Estonian Literacy Association website.
At the end of the conference we call out the topic for the next year contest. During these ten years there have been different themes for each contest: “Play is the work of the child”, “There’s no place like home”, “How did we learn to read”, “The apple does not fall far from the house”, “Home tells its story”, “If you want a thing done well, do it yourself”, “Laughter is the best medicine”.
In 2020 we celebrate the tenth birthday of our contest. The new topic of research papers is “Language and traditions of our corner”.
We are very grateful to this teacher who wrote about our contest in Estonian teachers’ newspaper. She said that among different competitions and contests organized for the students this is the best contest ever.