What if learning in early childhood settings and school started with wondering and dreaming

What was it that we loved as children?  My best guess is that it would be hands on, practical experiences that kept us intrigued, curious and made us want to come back for more. These were often challenging, tricky and required lots of problem solving and talking with friends to figure out possible, practical creative ways to find solutions. They were very often nothing to do with ‘easy’ or structured learning that was sequenced from easy to hard. It was something that mattered to us emotionally, personally, socially.  This means we really need to think about the kinds of learning experiences we offer our children and make sure they are not ‘activity based’ or ones that are based around simple, closed questioning. Any question we ask where we already know the answer, is a test. Children know we know the answer. However, raising ideas in conversations where there is a real sense of wondering, of needing to find out, keeps curiosity alive. Carol Dweck writes fabulously on the power of a growth mindset. It’s about relishing the hard, tricky problems, enjoying the process of learning, not just the reward where children will often choose an easier task to appear clever or sit compliantly to get the sticker. Compare asking “What colour is this block?” to “ I can see you’re choosing red blocks. I wonder how many red blocks you’ll need to make your plan work?” Children indicate they know ‘red’ by choosing the correct blocks but it is not a testing question. Much more about connecting to the child’s intentions for their building, estimation and solving a problem set by the children themselves. In any case how many shades of red are there and how many names do we have? You only need to see a paint colour chart to see how imaginative some of those names are. Why do we limit ourselves so narrowly to a list of the colours of the rainbow when if we could only see the infinitesimal colour spectrum we could be almost paralysed by the wonder of it all.

Lorraine Sands


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