Monday, August 11, 2014

The Learning Lives in the Process (This is not a tale about an art project)

Just as the journey is not about the destination, the learning is not about the end product.

The important part is not the fact that 2+2=4 ... the important part is how you figured out how to figure that out.

Here is a simple tale about a light and it's hard-to-reach light switch.  It is a tale about the fact that the learning is in the process, not the end product. 

The important part is not the fact that the light was successfully turned on....the important part is how a young child was allowed the time to struggle, solve problems and finally succeed.

Sit back, and enjoy (I might suggest you pop a little popcorn and grab yourself a beverage...)you are about to entertained by a lovely thing called:  "The Process":

 I could have easily done this for him.  But why?
It would have taken me a second to reach with my bare hand and turn on the light in our fort space.  But I did not.  I am so glad that I chose to step back, document and give this child ownership of the process.
Young children need to own the process.

The learning lives in the process.

The learning doesn't live in a teacher's plans.  The learning doesn't live in the end product.  The learning lives in the process.

You could spend hours coming up with the best laid plans for your littles.  BUT...if you do not let them own the process, there is little to no MEANINGFUL learning, in your plans.

You could spend hours helping your littles create the most amazing art product, dictating how much paint, directing where to put the paint, telling them they are making a fish.  BUT...if you do not let them own the process, there is little to no MEANINGFUL learning in the end product.

The learning truly lives in the process.  Good early childhood programs recognize this fact, and give their littles ample time to own the process.  Programs with tight schedules and strict lesson plan guidelines tend to (note I said tend to...that does not mean always... if you are afraid you may fall under this second category of programs, then do something about it...make a change) stifle the process and focus more on the product.

Take a look at the learning I would have stolen from this little 2 year old sweetheart had I just simply done it for him:

Recognizing that he had a problem to solve, Trillian got a chair from the art area, and carefully dragged and carried it across the floor. 
Let's dissect this part of the process.  Dissecting play and processes is the most valuable skill an early childhood professional can have.

1)  Look at the muscles he is using.  We are not born with muscles that know how to work together to solve problems.  We need to learn how to use them by manipulating our world.
2)  He is empowered because that chair is not light, and he is doing it by himself!!!
3)  He is needing to patiently wait for the other child to get out of his way.
4)  Let's not overlook the fact that he first realized he had a problem, and learning through observation, knew how to solve it.  He had witnessed several children, using different techniques, turn on the fort light.  He stored that information away for the moment he would need it.  That moment finally arrived, and he was ready for it!
5)  Finally, there is a lot of risk assessment and management involved in standing on a chair in order to solve a problem.  Children NEED risk.  I will say that again:  children NEED risk.

Here's more of the learning I would have swiped away had I just turned the light on for him (again:  it is not about the product..the light ON is not where the learning is)

Having watched the older, taller children time and time again use the car tracks to turn on the fort light, he thought that technique would work for him as well.
Let's dissect this part of the process.  Dissecting is the best tool for "selling" play:

1)  This child is about to fail.  He is not going to succeed.  There is a tremendous amount of learning in failing.  I dare say there is more learning in failing, then there is in success.
2)  Failing gives children an opportunity to persevere and practice determination.
3)  He is learning a bit about math.  More specifically, measurement.
4)  Here is a chance to practice some vocabulary words.  "This one is too short.  I need to make a longer one."

And yes....there is more:

Did you notice the blond haired child in the previous picture?  That is "Mama Avery".  Mama Avery takes the job of being Denita very seriously.  Whenever I am not stepping in, she has me covered!  The Mama Avery's of the world need to be dealt with carefully.  They are so proud to help, but must know when to help, and when not.  I decided to let her help this time.
Dissecting away:

1)  Failing, as Trillian did in the previous picture gives a young child the opportunity to ask for what they need.  In this case, Trillian decided he needed help, and "Mama Avery" was all too happy to oblige.
2)  The learning for Mama Avery is a sense of pride and importance.  SHE IS HELPING SOMEONE, and that feels good.
3)  Look at how carefully Trillian is studying Mama Avery's technique of hooking the track pieces together.
4)  Trillian is feeling special because an older child is helping him.

Oh yes.....there is more:

Uh boy!  That is a large load to carry while climbing up a chair.  Children need a little risk in their lives, they need to have opportunities to be careful.

Let's take a closer look at even more learning I would have stripped away had I just turned on the light for him.  Again, this is called dissecting play and it is the KEY to educating parents and administrators of the power and value and necessity of PLAY.

1)  Muscle coordination (I mentioned this earlier)
2)  Confidence
3)  Risk assessment and an opportunity to be careful.  Too often we tell children to be careful, but then we take away the very thing they need to be careful with, thusly removing the opportunity to practice caution!!  Say "be careful" and then LET THEM BE CAREFUL!
4)  Math...specifically measurement
5)  Physics.  This longer track is going to be far more difficult to hold up then the shorter one was.

Yup.  Another picture, another learning moment in the process:

Ta-da!!!  SUCCESS!!!
Without further adieu:

1)  The sweet taste of success.  Not the sweet taste of someone else doing it for you.  There is a huge difference.
2)  Muscle coordination.
3)  An "I did it" moment that will get tucked away in the brain and retrieved whenever another challenge arises.  Trillian will recall this moment and remember how good it felt to not give up.  He will remember he can do things for himself.

Again I tell you, it's all about the process.  This phrase does not just relate to artwork.  It relates to EVERYTHING. 
Step back.
Allow time for the process to occur.
Do not stifle or under-value the process.
Give ownership of the process to young children.

The learning lives in the process.