ELC Inquiry Questions

Q: Why can't we make an Onigiri (riceball) with this rice?


While preschool students were playing in the rice at the Sensory Table, one student asked a question, and the other students answered . . .

“If you eat this rice you will die!”
“You can’t eat this rice, it will give you a stomach ache”
“It’s not real rice”

The teachers asked the same question to the whole ELC preschool class and found that many of the students believed that you could not eat the rice in the rice table without getting sick and that you needed to cook the rice in order to eat it. SO . . . they cooked the rice from the rice table to see what would happen.

The students then made predictions about what the rice would look like, what it would feel like, and what it would smell like before opening the rice cooker. They noticed that the rice cooker was hot, so they thought that they probably should not touch it with their hands.


The students used rice paddles to manipulate the rice and test the texture. The teachers asked the original question about making onigiri again. The students used different methods of manipulating the rice. They agreed that this rice was best for making onigiri because it is sticky. Many students referred to the rice in this form as "real rice."

On the next day, the students noticed how storing the cooked rice in the refrigerator overnight impacted its consistency. They took turns feeling the rice through the plastic bag before emptying it into the sensory tray for more hands-on exploration.

They discovered that the cold rice wasn't as sticky as the hot rice. They wondered why it didn't work anymore, and came up with ideas about what they could do to the rice to make it sticky again. Two students suggested adding more water to the rice, since that is what they did to cook the rice from the rice table to begin with.

So, the next day, the teachers added another sensory tray, with jars of water, pipettes and droppers, and a few mixing tools to allow the students to test their idea of adding water to the cold rice.

At first, they kept the cooked rice in one tray, and mixed uncooked rice from the rice table with water in the second tray. They worked together and observed one another to get new ideas. A few students thought if they added water to the uncooked rice, it would get "sticky" and turn into "real rice."

The students used scientific principles of observation, predicting and testing predictions, and used tools and materials carefully over the course of the three days.

(View more photos HERE)