Sunday, July 26, 2015

Freedom to Explore

This past week I enjoyed a trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco with my two boys. With our summer filled with sports, friends, swimming and more video games than usual, I was looking forward to a day disconnected from devices and letting them explore and have fun.

I was amazed by all of the exhibits and hands on activities for the kids to explore. Their favorites included pedaling to create energy to power light bulbs and other objects, seeing how black sand from boulders reacted to magnets, and the Tinkering Studio.

As a mom and educator, the tinkering studio was by far my favorite; more specifically, it was the one section that allowed kids of all ages to design and build a unique creation.  Walking into the area, there was a sign posted for kids to read and then the walls were lined with peg boards.  Containers were filled with wooden pegs, funnels, tubing, ramps, and other materials.  Kids were given the chance to be creative, problem solve, build, reflect and refine.

While watching my two boys create a design, try out the marble, and then make adjustments, an idea came to me: Could I have something like this in my school?  Maybe it's a place where all classes can sign up for times, or maybe it's something that's opened up at recess for kids to explore.  What if it was a mobile station that could be moved around to different classrooms?  I don't have all the answers yet, but I am excited about the possibility.   I continued watching not only my kids, but kids as young as 1 1/2 years old build and
My boys creating their pathway for the marble. 
have fun for hours on end! I watched as kids used: critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving.  The whole time they were excited and having fun!

As a mom, I'm always thinking about how I can get my two boys to get along and work together.  On this day, I didn't have to do a thing!  They worked together and supported each other while trying to accomplish their goal of getting the marble to travel down the path they created.

As educators we're always thinking what can we have them read? What technology can we incorporate? What do I need to teach them? How do I teach kids to work together?  Maybe we're asking the wrong questions.  Maybe it's not about what we can teach them, but instead it's what experience can we provide so they can learn?  

Life is not about giving kids the answers and explicitly teaching all there is to learn. They need a chance to play and figure things out.  A chance to problem solve and experience failure, but then get right back at it with another idea.  So as you enter this school year, I challenge you to think about what you can do to provide experiences for the kids to explore and have fun while learning at the same time!

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