4.7 Reflecting and Reaching Conclusions
||Ask a child: “How do you know what comes next?”
Or: “How did you figure that out?”
This will invite the child to reveal his thinking and tell how he came to his conclusion.
A few months ago, I spent a day at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). While I was there, I overheard a young boy of about four say something that has continued to stick with me. He pointed to one of the “stuffed” animals in the exhibit and shouted out “Look, a fossil yak”. The reason that this has stayed with me is because that simple statement seemed to be such a wonderful indication of how he was learning and processing information. It was as though I could see the cogs turning in his head, I could see how he might have come to call this animal a “fossil yak”. This young boy and his family had been going through the ROM in much the same direction we had, and I had seen him in the previous exhibit we’d been in, which was the dinosaur exhibit. So, I could imagine how this young child could have learned that the dinosaurs that he was seeing were not alive, and he learned that these dinosaurs were instead fossil dinosaurs. Then, moving into another room and seeing animals that were not alive, he could have taken the information that he’d already learned, which is that something that isn’t alive is a fossil, and then apply that principle to a new situation. This could certainly lead to his declaration that the animal before him was a “fossil yak”.
All too often, children’s comments are remembered or repeated because they are “cute” and we often joke about what kids say. I wonder, though, how often we really think about some of the comments that children make about the world around them? I wonder if we think about what these comments can tell us about children, about their learning and development, about their observations of the world and how they process information. Children learn and grow so rapidly, especially in their early years; their brains are constantly changing as they take in and process new information and have new experiences. I think that we don’t spend enough time appreciating that process. Children are not empty vessels needing to be filled with knowledge so that they become more intelligent, more mature. They aren’t just cute. They are explorers and scientists and they spend a lot more time contemplating the world around them and trying to understand it than we do. So, next time a child says something “cute”, take a moment to really think about what they’re saying. It might be more revealing than you originally thought.