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Early childhood education has been my life for over 30 years. I have taught all age groups from infants to 5-year-olds. I was a director for five years in the 1980s, but I returned to the classroom 22 years ago. My passion is watching the ways children explore and discover their world. In the classroom, everything starts with the reciprocal relationships between adults and children and between the children themselves. With that in mind, I plan and set up activities. But that is just the beginning. What actually happens is a flow that includes my efforts to invite, respond and support children's interface with those activities and with others in the room. Oh yeh, and along the way, the children change the activities to suit their own inventiveness and creativity. Now the processes become reciprocal with the children doing the inviting, responding and supporting. Young children are the best learners and teachers. I am truly fortunate to be a part of their journey.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Giving voice to curiosity

Children are naturally curious.  I always cringe a little bit when I read something that purports to build children's curiosity.  It does not need to be built because it is fundamental to children's being. Instead, I like the idea of giving voice to children's curiosity.

Curiosity for children usually takes the form of exploring how things work.  That is an active process.  For example, with the apparatus pictured below, the children have to act on it to see how it works.  (More about this apparatus can be found in the following two posts:  Totally different and Channel, tube and homemade plunger.)
How do children make sense of this apparatus.  They act on it, of course, but how might it give voice to children's curiosity? A couple of the features that will give voice to the children's curiosity are the inclines and the holes.  Various strategies emerge as the children figure out how to move the sand through the holes and down the inclines, 

Inclines are simple machines and children quickly learn how they work.  However, as the sand piles up at the bottom, children's curiosity burgeons into a variety of strategies for getting the sand through the hole at the bottom of the apparatus.  How do I use my hand? (See example on the left.) Can I find a tool to help me? (See example on the right.)




The child pictured here is curious what happens to his scoop when he drops it through the hole on the top.  He has an idea, so he crouches down on the stool to confirm his theory.  I suppose I could have asked him where he thought the scoop went, but since curiosity is in his being, I know he is already asking himself that question.


The picture below shows the apparatus with an added feature: a cardboard chute taped to the incline.  One hole is cut in the top and one at the bottom.  Yet another hole is cut at the bottom of the chute so it directs the sand into the original hole at the bottom of the apparatus.
The child has just poured sand in the top hole of the chute.  Her eyes reveal the focus of her curiosity.  This may not be as simple as it seems, because once the child pours the sand in the top of the chute, it disappears.  When it re-appears, she observes that flow of the sand changes as it exits the bottom hole of the apparatus.

The picture below shows the apparatus with yet another added feature: a cardboard chute taped horizontally to the top of tower box. 
The child pictured above is pouring sand through a clear plastic tube that she has appropriated and inserted into one of the holes of the horizontal chute.  The hole has a corresponding hole on the bottom of the horizontal chute so the sand drops into the top hole of the incline chute.  If that sounds complex, it is.  She is not just pouring sand but creating a new route for the sand through the holes and down the inclines.  Her operation takes more coordination, both fine motor and large motor.  The voice of children's curiosity can grow in relation to children's competencies.   



Collaboration can also give voice to children's curiosity.  These two children are using clear plastic tubes to refine a new path for the sand to flow from the apparatus into the tub next to the table.  On the left, they have put one tube inside the other, but the tube in the chute is at such an angle that the sand slides underneath their tube construction.






After some deliberation, the children decide to separate the tubes.  Next, they prop the bottom tube against the side of the tub next to the table.  That bottom tube is then put through the hole in the bottom of the apparatus and then through the hole in the bottom of the incline chute.  They then place the second tube inside the incline chute so it is propped up against the bottom tube.  Not only is that second tube propped up against the bottom tube, but it lies flat inside the incline chute and can be lined up better with the bottom tube.   Their collaboration fuels their curiosity and creates a new path for the sand to travel down and out the apparatus.





There is one final element that gives voice to children's curiosity.  That is my own curiosity about how children make meaning of the their world.  David Hawkins writes about this in his book The Informed Vision.  On page 142, he says to be a teacher, one has "...to be easy and attentive with children, to find them fascinating bundles of capability and potential, to love the world around, and to wish to induct children into exploration of its marvels and its mysteries, to know enough of the discipline to be able to learn more, sometimes with children rather than ahead of them."

In other words, giving voice to my own curiosity is one of the necessary components for giving voice to children's curiosity.

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