Friday, December 14, 2012

Trust : Wonder Science Last Class 2012

How should young children learn?

I visited a school the other day where 3 year olds sat for over 25 minutes in chairs with worksheets in front of them.  The teacher stood over them and directed them to circle pictures that started with the "K" sound.

If the children started having conversations with one another or wanted to tell a story, they were reminded to focus on their work, and to Listen.
They looked at their sheets and followed the teachers instructions.  Does fish begin with "K"?  Many of the children shook heads "Yes!" The teacher answered with "Noooo."  And on and on...
So, if we analyze this scenario...What are children learning?

School is about sitting...

School is about listening...

School is about following the teacher...

School is about saying the "Right" answer to the teacher.

School is boring.
I certainly understand the value in sitting, listening, following directions, etc...
But is that the top of my list for what I want my children to learn at school?
You can probably guess the "right" answer here ;)

And we're back to:
"How Should Young Children learn?"

When I am setting out experiences for children at Wonder Studio...I am looking to create areas that allow for multiple possibilities.  
Which would be the opposite of a worksheet.
If we want our children to embrace enjoy not simply follow a recipe...but to create their own recipes...
then we must allow for them to be Protagonists. 
Let them lead.

Most of you know, I always have playdough or flubber available in my Science classes.
Sure, it strengthens the muscles in their little hands but MORE importantly,
Playdough can take on multiple shapes, it can be cut or squeezed into different quantities.
It encourages elements of symmetry, impressions, etc...
There is no right answer with playdough.
Children can have conversations or listen to others conversing.
They can learn about sharing, taking, and how to speak up if they want to be heard or if they want more pieces of playdough.
Another experience I always try and have in some form or another is Blocks.
While children build, they are learning about physics.  How to balance one block on tall can I make it before it tumbles?
Again, there is no right answer here.
Blocks with animals encourage your child to pretend.
Allowing them to be "bigger" than they really are.
Inviting them to try on different personalities and characteristics.
Helping them process questions, or concerns that have been on their mind.

And pretending that a block can be a house or a phone or anything allows children to grow up believing they can make things.
I can explain the meaning behind each of these experiences until I am blue in the face...
But it really boils down to...What do we believe about our children?
Are they strong?  Are they capable?  Are they self-initiators?  Are they curious?  
Are they weak?  Are they empty vessels to be filled with knowledge we deem important?

Somehow, your child was so motivated to learn to walk, talk, explore his world.

How do we keep that motivation?  That drive to learn.

Trust in the human spirit and ingenuity.  
It's a messy journey (especially at Wonder Studio!) but well worth the trip!