Big Ideas

Topic Progress:

With each seasonal experience, there are big ideas that underpin the learning. The concept of big ideas was formulated by sociologist and philosopher Jorgen Habermas (1952-2010). MacNaughton (2009) explained that for Habermas, critical knowledge of big ideas was linked to possibilities for a better world. Thinking about big ideas is thinking about possibilities to make the world better for children and their families (Dietze & Kashin, 2016). Big ideas will extend the learning and support deep thinking, both the children’s and that of the early learning teachers. Deep thinking is a process of inquiry. Inquiry is not a simple process, but one that requires deep thinking and critical reflection.


Searching for the big ideas is a way for early learning teachers to find meaning in their experiences. This meaning can be communicated in the documentation and will support making learning visible. Dialogue with others to find the big ideas in your outdoor experiences. These conversations should not be limited to adults but should include children. Children can be encouraged to converse on a deep level. Conversations that support children in finding their voice and revealing their ideas occur when adults do not dominate the dialogue. When adults dominate the dialogue, children view the adults as experts, which reduces their confidence in working out their own ideas. Rather than focus on giving the right answer, have children come up with their own theories. Knowing why the sky is blue involves scientific fact that can be memorized. Coming up with their own theories for the blueness of the sky supports children’s thinking and assumes a view of the child as capable and competent of complex thinking. Now that’s a big idea!