12 June 2018
Day 2: Hmm Let’s See…
Rise and shine; we’ve come to Day 2 of Downtown Derby! What an exciting day it really was, as the 6 cheeky children continued with the making of their cars and explored different elements and their effect on the concept of speed. Excitedly, the children were also split into either Team “Good Guys” or Team “Bad Guy”, and collaborated to devise methods and tools to defeat the other team, just like how Finn McMissile pitted against the villains in Cars 2.
It comes as no surprise that young children have a natural curiosity about their world, exemplified in their outpouring of questions. Children as young as 2 or 3 have no hesitation about asking “why” as they observe and question the wonders of the world around them. This inclination to inquire is precious – we tap on exactly this natural curiosity in children as we set out boxes and various materials – bubble wrap, sandpaper and felt – for children to test and see if box height and different surfaces would affect the speed of the cars traveling down the ramps.
Importantly, we made sure to let the children decide fully how they should play with the cars, or how they should stack the boxes, or how they should be using the various materials – the 6 children took center stage in their own ways and explored everything in front of them in ways they are happy with.
Inquiry based learning is defined as an approach to teaching and learning whereby children’s questions, thoughts, and interpretations hold center stage. The responsibility for learning lies in the hands of both the adult and the child. The adult serves as “facilitator” and “guide,” rather than as the “sage on the stage.”
Additionally, functional fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits a person to use an object only in the way it is traditionally used – as we look at how children use the materials, it becomes clear that at this stage, children are less bounded by certain ways of using something, which is a precious part of a child’s innocence and brilliance that we will only come to dim if we fixate on “teaching them the right ways” from a young age.
A bubble wrap can be more than just something used to wrap fragile items, speed exploration can be done in more directions than we are used to. More often than not, when we let children engage in such free play and exploration, we are also giving ourselves a chance to learn from the young ones.
Research supports the idea that engaging environments are essential to not only young children’s cognitive growth, but also their social and emotional development (Klefstad, 2015). During the process of our speed experiment, children were excited and were no longer too shy to collaborate with one another. They bounced ideas off one another, and were delighted and amused to see how the different ideas worked out. It was a pleasant sight seeing children in high spirits, breaking down the barriers they may have had previously. Alena, for instance, observed Sherri wrapping the felt around her wrist but was unable to do so herself, and so later on sought help from Sherri. Kevin was more on the quiet side on Day 1, but naturally his curiosity about the activity propelled him to participate enthusiastically and share his observations with the rest.
According to a research conducted by Locchetta, Barton, & Kaiser (2016), social competence is a primary developmental task for young children. Research shows that a child’s social behaviors in preschool are predictive of critical outcomes such as job retention, social competence and relationship success. The most critical of social skills may be interacting positively with peers, as this directly impacts a child’s ability to successfully negotiate his or her social world.
Many young children learn and practice social skills in informal interactions during play and even mealtimes. The children had lots of fun painting and working together to create the perfect backdrop with which their race would take place.
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Daphne is currently an undergraduate in Psychology at the National University of Singapore. She enjoys working with children and strongly believes in learning from experience, especially for children as they manoeuvre through the world around them. She is inspired by the energy and positivity children have towards novel objects and situations.