Inquire, Curate, Explore: 5 Tips for the Under 10 Set


The AASL Standards are made up of six Shared Foundations. Three of those Shared Foundations–Inquire, Curate, and Explore–encourage students to do the following:

Inquire: Build new knowledge by inquiring, thinking critically, identifying problems and developing strategies for solving problems.

Curate: Make meaning for oneself and others by collecting, organizing, and sharing resources of personal relevance.

Explore: Discover and innovate in a growth mindset developed through experience and reflection.

The standards are designed to be integrated into every grade level. This means we start talking inquiry, curation, and exploration with our youngest learners.

Getting Started

But how to do this? I spent the first few years of my library career as an elementary school librarian. I don’t mind admitting that there was a point in the day, right before kindergartners arrived in the library, where my pulse started to race. My aunt was a kindergarten teacher for 30 years and I know many amazing kindergarten teachers, and I marvel at them all! Kindergarten teachers are incredible. As the librarian, seeing the kindergartners once a week from the beginning of the year till the end, there was so much growth in personality and skills. However, every day, my pulse would race as I prepared for the 25 or so small people who would enter the library. Some days, we barely made it through my activities and the teachers would arrive back to pick up their class and my hair would be disheveled and I’d be sweaty having just orchestrated a conga line after reading a book about parrots dancing in a conga line.

Our youngest learners can and should be involved in curation, exploration, and inquiry.

Critical Literacies

Years ago, I remember reading an article in which the author was measuring a new digital divide. This divide was no longer those who had technology versus those who did not. Rather, this article devised the premise that the new digital divide will be based “around students who know how to effectively find and curate information and those who do not” (Clark 2013).

We need to start teaching these critical literacies early and often to avoid the new digital divide.

With that in mind, let’s dive into our 5 tips for working with students under the age of 10 in the world of inquiry.


  1. Employ a research model. Information literacy is a process. Over the years, as adults, we’ve naturally honed that process in our lives by asking questions, organizing ourselves to search for an answer, finding resources, evaluating, and thinking critically about what we find. We also know how to express our findings in a way that has meaning to our audience. Hopefully, we also evaluate the results of our efforts. In our district we utilize the Super 3 for researching in our younger grades, but you can utilize any model that works for you and for your building, district, and students. The Super 3 is made up of 3 steps: Plan, Do, and Review.
  2. Find student-friendly resources. There are a few really good sites and databases out there that are geared toward younger researchers. Pebble Go from Capstone comes to mind as the database reads the article to the student assisting in the research process. There are several out there.   Choose resources with bright, inviting colors and tiles for students to click on for easy access. ALA’s Great Websites for Kids is a free resource that leads to great young student-friendly resources on animals, arts, the world, science, and more.
  3. Keep it simple. Build a pathfinder that is easily accessible to younger learners. Perhaps it’s a simple click or a QR code that takes them where you want them to be. Don’t overwhelm students with too many choices. If your district uses a tool such as Clever, that’s also a great way to direct students to where you want them to go.
  4. Use creation tools that are age appropriate. Flipgrid (now owned by Microsoft) is safe and secure, and what younger student doesn’t want to see themselves talking on video? Tools such as Wixie are a purchase, but are designed to be easily used as creation tools for students in elementary school. SeeSaw offers a way for students to create and share as well.
  5. Finally, scaffold your research. You know your kids and your building best, so do what’s right for you.  Here are some common scaffolds that I like. No one combination is going to work for every situation, so be flexible in the scaffolds you provide to students.


 Videos and Web Pages

Grades K & 1 Use video and web pages in whole group and discuss
Grade 2 Consider embedding videos and having students view in pairs or small groups

Have 1-2 sites for finding information

Use a pathfinder

Grade 3-5 Grade 2 scaffolds as needed

Consider adding additional sites to pathfinder


Book Research

Grades K & 1 Read aloud your books
Grade 2 Consider having several books at tables and move through stations
Grade 3-5 Consider allowing more choice in book selection for a particular topic


Notes and Organizers and Curating Materials

Grades K & 1 Create a whole class document on white paper or on projector

Talk about authors and illustrators and giving credit

Grade 2 Have a graphic organizer

Have students write the name of the author, book, illustrator, or website as appropriate

Grade 3-5 Simple citations

In grades 4 and 5 we begin to teach Noodletools

Work Cited:

Clark, H. 2013. “Critical Search Skills Students Should Know.”  Ed Tech Teacher (Oct. 23).,


Author: Jennifer Sturge

Jennifer Sturge is a Specialist for School Libraries and Digital Learning for Calvert County Public Schools. She has been an educator and librarian for 28 years and is always looking forward. She is a member of ALA and AASL,was the 2020-2021 President of the Maryland Association of School Librarians for 2020-2021, a 2017-2018 Lilead Fellow, and Chair of the AASL Supervisor’s Section of AASL..

Categories: Blog Topics, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models, Technology

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