Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Catching Water in a Cardboard Box

This morning I found myself thinking of the time a couple of years ago when the student house next door had a leak (or rather a gush!). We noticed from the outside and knocked on the door, first we had to explain about stop cocks and then find it and turn it off. When we went into the front room, which in our house is a living room and in theirs is a bedroom, water was gushing down through the light fitting and the boy (well he was 19 at least) had put a cardboard box underneath to catch the water! We had to first tell him under no circumstances to switch on the light and then tell him to find a container that would actually hold water...

I have always thought this a scary but funny story but this morning I find myself wondering if we are actually giving our children enough opportunity to actually learn things for themselves. When I worked in a pre-school children were given an abundance of opportunities for messy play but all done in a very controlled and contained way. I am now wondering why, for instance, did we not ask the children what containers the children thought would hold water and then let them try them out to see if they worked. What better way to learn that in fact a cardboard box cannot hold water and why and because they had tried it out for themselves rather than being told by an adult that it wouldn't work then the information would be more likely to stay with them for life.

Obviously you could not let them experiment with electricity...but there are many other scenarios that you could let them try out. For instance when making cakes why not let them try a batch with salt or without baking powder to see what happens - let them learn by mistakes but still in a safe environment. In the rush to look after and protect our children we sometimes forget that telling someone something (nagging or advising) is no substitute for actually leaning something for yourself!

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