Great to have you back in the month of May! I am so grateful for the opportunity of being able to be a part of the lives of so many children. I'm grateful because I find children healing. I have also learned so much from their authentic sense of wonder, willingness to explore, risk and create. One of the preschool centers I have been around a lot is Child-Parent Centers, Inc. Specifically, over the last couple of years, the center site in Benson, Arizona. Together we have found ways to address both:
Critical Thinking and Creativity
Academic Growth and Emotional Intelligence
A strategy that this entire program has used successfully is engaging the children in "Studies" of certain topics. Recently, the topic which excited the children was "Grasshoppers!" Below is a description the teachers posted after the experience so parents and other visitors could see what they had been up to.
One of the most powerful ways to elevate any learner is to help them experience the "Artistic Process" in any area of study. Experiencing the artistic process helps the learner realize that:
- learning takes place over time
- learning never stops
- the precarious edge of "not knowing" is a thrilling place to be and return to
- creating your own structure creates a life full of learning
Recently in my collaboration with other artists, (primarily International Mime and Director Rick Wamer of Arts Integration Solutions and Corey Ferrugia of MyTown Music), I have had some of the most meaningful conversations and artistic experiences in my life. From those experiences we have talked about some of our experiences as Artists and here's just a small part of what I has been illuminated for me as a guide of children in the artistic process.
The Artistic Four
(there are more, but these are some of my favorites):
In this study of Grasshoppers, children began with a context they knew and loved… the outdoors! This is where they first noticed grasshoppers and became interested in knowing more. As I have pointed out in many of my posts, the use of questions by the teachers was the launching pad for discovery.
Elevated teachers help their young students establish goals and an overall plan. In this case that meant:
- Catch some grasshoppers
- Examine the grasshoppers
- Figure out what grasshoppers eat
After the examining had gone on for a while, this study expanded as teachers added the ideas of:
Throughout the experience, content was present, and it was present at all times IN CONTEXT! This of course enriched the experience for the learner, in this case preschool children. The content present throughout this study varied from the resources and materials below.
- Prior knowledge of insects
- Insect books
- Containers that could hold grasshoppers without harming them
- Writing materials
- Food for grasshoppers
Content is of course necessary and it's important for us to remind ourselves that it needs to be connected to concepts in order for the content to have anything beyond surface meaning.
Guiding young learners to work together goes beyond teaching basic social-emotional development. When we help learners of any age understand how to listen to the ideas of others and truly collaborate we are giving them the gift of:
- Understanding that your own idea can become part of a larger idea
- Recognizing that no one has all the answers working alone
- Embracing new ideas as a way of learning and growing
- What else was learned in this study by the students?
- What else was learned in this study by the teachers?
- How could you use a study like this and create even more learning?
- What areas of science could you teach to preschool children or older students?
- How can I use the scientific ideas of comparison and contrast with young learners?
- How can I use the scientific idea of observation with young learners?
- How is observing different from seeing or looking?
- How often do I use the word "observe" with my children and how could I use it?
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO…
- Beginning the learning process of each day with CONTEXT the children are connected to.
- Co-create CONCEPT with your children that is connected back to the CONTEXT.
- Trust that the CONTENT will reveal itself based on the CONCEPT which is connected to the CONTEXT.
- Become a master at asking questions that encourages true COLLABORATION
Children are some of the most wonderful teachers I have ever met. When we can embrace that idea and when we, as adult learners, can remember what it is to be like a child, full of wonder, excitement and energy, we can achieve so much more.
Meaningful success is much like meaningful learning. It's not the content alone that is important. It is helping the learner create their own structures and their own understanding OF THE CONTENT. The CONTEXT of this is key, and the asking of questions is one of the foundational strategies in our quest to grow new paradigms of thinking in our youngest learners.
I would love to hear how you are using any of these ideas. I invite you to post questions and comments on my Facebook educational site, "Living Like a Child."
Founder, F.A.M.E. Foundation
Co-Founder, Context Method®
Collaborative Artist, MyTown Music