Monday, March 19, 2012

Give the Ownership of Discovery to Children

Sometimes we are just like young children.  We find it difficult to keep our mouths shut and our hands to ourselves.

Take discoveries for instance.  How many times have you either:

1.  Observed children struggling to solve a problem....
2.  Observed children on the verge of a discovery, but just not getting there....
3.  Observed children heading away from a discovery you were anticipating they would make....

.....and you just couldn't resist jumping in to show the way, just to help out a bit? 

If you are like me, it has happened, and, when you REALLY think about it, it has happened a lot!  What you probably didn't realize is that in that one step, that one moment of seemingly "heroism" you actually took the ownership of discovery away from the children.

Think of what you have owned in your life.  Things? (like houses, cars, clothing, shoes)  Choices? (where to eat, when to go to sleep, what to do, where to live) Mistakes?  Successes?  Discoveries? How do those different ownerships make you feel?

In ownership we feel responsibility, pride, interest and accomplishment.  This is true for a young child as well.

In ownership we also learn.  We learn that with hard work good things can come.  We learn that doing things for ourselves feels amazing.  We learn that different causes have different effects.

I think it's safe to say that with each unique experience we own comes many different lessons.

Hopefully this blog post will encourage you to not jump in, to stay quiet and observe.  To give ownership of discovery to children.  A young child's ownerships are quite limited.  Discovery is something that we should freely give to them.

Here we go....

Last week I plopped a pulley system.  A VERY simple thing to add to your programs, and after reading the photo journal to follow, I'm almost positive you will be running to your nearest hardware store! 

  • screws with the eye thingy ma jigger on the end (see photo below)
  • drill
  • stud finder (MUST find a stud....this is not a dating blog, so I am of no help...ha!)
  • flexible neck
  • handy husband (not required by any means, but sure makes the job somewhat easier)
  • rope (I used paracord simply because my 12 year old son has made himself quite a business making and selling paracord bracelets and we have an excess of paracord in every color imaginable around here!)  The nice thing about paracord is when you cut it, you just use a lighter to melt the freying ends and then it never freys...and it's smooth....and it's pretty (if pretty matters to you) not to mention sturdy (and sturdy definitely matters)

I love my husband!  Oh the things he has done for me
and my daycare kids!

My husband is a stud....but he's not good at finding them! :)  This project
put three extra, nice-sized holes in the ceiling (see the extra hole? Whoops!)  This
is a close-up photo of both one of the extra holes, and the screw with eye thing-a-ma-jigger.

My son thought two ropes on one bucket would be a great idea.  It was
for a while, until they got all twisted together.  I believe we cut the second
rope off within 20 minutes of play.

Extra buckets ($1 a piece at Michael's Craft) and packing peanuts
ready for play!

Shovels, and a letter for this day's mystery word (see The Power of One Word):  "WOW" were
in the bucket...up on the ceiling.
I should have taken more pictures of the problem solving process, but, admitedly, those pics would have been quite boring.  Here's how it went down:
1.  Lots of jumping.  I found this stage to be both completely hilarious and 100% impressive.  They were SO FAR from the bucket, yet SO DETERMINED!!  Persistence and determination are GREAT life-long skills!
2.  Standing on chairs to try to reach the buckets...again, SO DETERMINED and independent!  Independent thinking is another life-long skill!
3.  Asking me to get the grabbers (see The Power of One Word) so they could grab the buckets with them.
4.  Discovering the ropes.  FINALLY someone discovered the ropes attached to the buckets!  I could not believe how long it took for them to discover the ropes!!  It took teamwork to get the ropes untied.  Working with guessed a VERY valuable life-long skill!

The entire time, I sat on my stool, quietly observing and enjoying the learning occuring right before my eyes.  Remember, even in failure, we learn.  Every once in a while I would remind them to ask for what they need. I was there if they needed me to get them anything to help solve the problem of getting the buckets down.  (I will not lie....this was extremely painful to observe.  The solution to the problem was SO OBVIOUS to my adult "been there, done that' mind....but to young children, who had never used a pulley, this was an incredibly difficult problem to solve.)

Give children ownership of discovery!

Cole is taking the initiative to attempt to release the buckets.

Alayna soon joined Cole in an attempt to release the much
anticipated and desired buckets.  I could have easily gotten them down.
I could have shown them.  It would have taken meer seconds instead of 25 minutes.
But the discovery would not have belonged to the children then. 

SUCCESS!! Amelia is discovering the letter "w" for our mystery word.
Jack is waiting patiently to grab the shovels that are also in the bucket.

Without realizing just how amazing the phenomenon of a pulley would be, I picked "wow" to be our Mystery Word on this particular day.  Little did I know just how appropriate that word choice would be!  I heard "wow" over and over again!
 Erik just stood there, in this position, pulling
the rope, watching the bucket rise, letting go and watching the
bucket drop....repeat process again...and again...and again.  Every
once and a while "wow" quietly left his lips as he giggled.

When children learn through trial and error they automatically go into scientist mode. When scientists get an answer, they don't accept it until they have gotten the same answer several times. Children do the same thing! Erik kept pulling the rope to see if the bucket would rise again. Of course, it did every time. You and I know that every single time he pulls on the rope, the bucket is going to go up, but this is new to him, and he needs to test this theory to it's fullest potential!

Let Them Play

Give children ample time to make further discoveries through play!  The hard part is done.  They figured out how to get the buckets down, they now own this discovery. Now give them time to dig in and enjoy the fruits of their labor!

I enjoyed watching this part tremendously!  Those packing peanuts were a HIT!  My camera battery went dead (grrrrr...) so I missed taking pics of the shower.  They asked for my step stool ladder so they could dump the buckets from up high (how clever....).  They filled the bucket with packing peanuts, then one child pulled the cord, another climbed the step stool, and yet another stood underneath to await their "shower" !!

Then they were firemen putting out fires with the "water" (aka: packing peanuts).  They had so much fun scooping up those packing peanuts into buckets and dumping them!  The poor packing peanuts now have an identity crisis as I'm certain they do not know what they are anymore!!  Mostly, they were water...but they were bugs (thanks to their static quality and ability to stick to you), macaroni and treasure.  Surprisingly, they were never snow!

Repurposing Previous Discoveries

I love when a child takes a previous discovery and applies what they learned to a new experience.  In the following photos we see Jack loading up the shovel with packing peanuts, but he has no intentions of simply dumping them into a bucket.  Oh no.  He has much better plans.  Recall the spoon catapults mentioned in a previous post, Learning Lurks Everywhere?  Well.....Jack is quietly realizing that shovels just might work the same as spoons...and packing peanuts might work as well as pom poms and foam blocks.......

Not one to be satisfied with the norm, Jack finds his own way of
getting packing peanuts into the bucket.

Notice Jack's eyes? They are able to track the slow moving packing peanut. He can
not keep up with a pom pom, or foam block that has been catapulted through the air.
A packing peanut, however, travels MUCH slower through the air, allowing him
to practice and perfect his visual tracking.

And now....back to the pulleys.  In the end, my entire crew was still thinking "wow" everytime a bucket

went up....
 ...and came back down. 
They just never tired of watching this same event happen again and again. They tested their new discovery hundreds of times....why? Because it belonged to THEM. They owned it. An adult didn't show them how, didn't tell them what to adult simply PLOPPED something new, stepped back, and gave the ownership of discovery to them!

It's inevitable.....such fun play is usually followed by picking up the mess.  Even in this process there was valuable learning and practice time.  We set a goal...our goal was to eat lunch.  We were a team.  A team works for the same goal.  Once the goal was established, the daunting task of picking up all those now broken-into-at-least-a-thousand-pieces-and-so-full-of-static-they-stick-to-my-nose-hairs packing peanuts didn't seem so bad.  With occasional reminders of how much fun that was, and that we are all in this together the room was back to normal in no time!

As usual, I suggest you re-read this post. Take note of the learning! See the sense of pride, accomplishment and interest that comes with ownership?  As you re-read, be reminded  that the majority of the learning came about because an adult did not rush in to solve a problem. The children were given the time and support necessary for them to own the discovery. 

Admittedly, quietly observing and resisting the urge to "help" can be EXTREMELY challenging and down right painful at times.  But, I have learned the more I can step back, and the more I observe the positive results, the easier it gets to just say:
"Looks like you have yourself a problem to solve!  I know you can do it!!  I'll be right here if you need me to get something for you."

Give children ownership of discovery!!  It makes play count even more!