Friday, February 3, 2012

Art, Learning & Experimenting

The more I teach, the more I am convinced that there is a definitive link between art, science, and learning.

I love the hands on opportunities that art presents.  And although I am not artistically inclined myself, I love losing myself in art.  I love the story art can tell.  I love that for my little preschoolers, art actually DOES tell the story.

Art is a language builder.  It's a fine motor skill to be perfected. It's emotional development, a tool for expressing your emotions.  It's math in one of it's earliest forms: color recognition, color mixing, patterns.... It's science: "Why didn't the waterpaint cover the crayon?"  "I'm going to paint this bear in the arctic because it's a polar bear."

Science is the same way.  Teaching a child to explore concepts for themselves is the single most important thing I can imagine instilling in young minds.

Don't just accept that I've told you red and blue make purple, test it.  Don't believe me that this boat will float.  Maybe it won't.  Try it.  Teaching a child to question things is invaluable.  "Investigating" is a useful skill that translates into more socially responsible citizens, more innovative business thinkers, cutting edge doctors and scientists.

The point is not to fill your children with ABC knowledge, to ensure that they can name all of their colors, or tell you what 1+1 is.  Any four year old can memorize that information.  The point is to teach them to figure out what that MEANS, what the point of it all is, and how to enjoy figuring it all out.... How to explore new things and make it meaningful.  Can they use the letters to build a fun word?  How can they use the colors to paint a picture of their family?  If they want two more cookies, and they already have one, how many will they have?

Today, we set up this experiment in the bathtub:
The white bowl is empty.  The wooden bowl if full of blue cold water.  The dark bowl is full of hot red water.

The question I presented:  What happens when you mix cold and hot water together?
D's response initially:  Maybe the hot water will stay on the edges and the cold water will sit in the middle and then it won't be so hot or so cold. (where did he get this idea from?  I'm not sure?)

Let's see!  "Mom it's turning purple!"

What does the purple water feel like?  Is it hotter or colder than the red water?  Is it hotter or colder than the blue water?

I love to ask questions along the way.  Totally adult-free child play with no questions doesn't always accomplish quite the same thing as when parents & teachers are observing, asking questions, adding elements when their discovery goes deeper/differently than expected :)

"Mom, what happens if we add all of the hot water and the cold water together?"
Well let's see...
"But mom, where did the hot water go?!  There's no hot or cold water anymore, it's like... it's nothing!... Maybe I should climb into the bowl to find it."

Sure... Whatever works to get the point across :-)

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