Friday, August 01, 2008
Children as scientists
If children are aways asking questions then ought not our classrooms help them in their search for answers?
I recently came across an extract from an article called 'Children are Scientists' written in 1947 by Herbert Zim.
That we haven't yet created schools based on assisting students research their own questions and concerns just goes to show how much 'our' curriculums, what 'we' think is important for them to learn, has ignored the source of real motivation for students to learn.
No wonder many students become 'disengaged' - they were never 'engaged' in the first place. And to make it worse imposed curriculums now reach down to the very young. The situation is not helped by the pressure felt by parents to make certain their chiden succeed. There is no time for children to explore to satisfy their potentially ever expanding curiosity.
Herbert Zim says:
'That children are scientists is a truth worth repeating with emphasis. That they are also artists, musicians, and social beings we know. But young children particularly are more scientists than they are anything else.
The child starts to become a scientist with those basic reactions that first make him ( and her) aware of cause and effect.
To go further, all normal children possess curiosity about their environment, a quality that is essentially scientific. Children persistent questions,although sometimes motivated by a desire for security, are an outlet for curiosity which expresses itself in activity patterns as well as verbal...
Young children never hesitate to offer an explanation of even complicated phenomena.They may be completely in error but they develop a surprising logic in the hypothesis they set forth...It has been repeatedly suggested that scientists have made their great creative progress because some have been able to preserve and use these very qualities that we see so clearly in the young child.'
Just imagine a class that really values students questions and utilizes them to create an emerging, ever evolving, curriculum. Imagine teachers dedicated to helping their students research answers to their questions appropriate to their developmental level. Such a teacher would ever be on the alert to tap into students' natural curiosity,environmental events, as well as providing potentially stimulating experiences that might capture students' attention.
In such a classroom such creative teachers ( because teaching is in essence a creative act)would interact to help students 'dig deeply' into things that concern them. Such teachers would challenge their students to consider other possibilities always leaving the final choice to the students themselves. A wise teacher knows that students will change their minds when it makes sense to them.
In such classrooms students would be seen as 'scientists, artists, poets, and social beings'. They would see their students, as it is suggested in the 'new' New Zealand Curriculum, as 'active seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'.
Maybe the time has come for teachers to throw away their curriculums and work along side the students to develop learning around what captures the students curiosity.
Too much teaching simply goes against the grain of the way students naturally learn. It would be easier to go with the flow.