Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Connecting With Yellow In Nature

Yellow is Hope and Happiness

Connecting with nature is something that we are falling in love with since few months now. Today, we chose to go on a nature walk to be friends with anything yellow in nature.

We picked a tiny yellow flower that captured our eyes.

We observed and discussed about leaves that had turned yellow. 

The sight where a stem of a baby bamboo tree that had turned yellow while other stems remained green was very captivating.

Then, we moved on friending something really yellow. We distinguished buds and fully blossomed flowers. We were also able to distinguish the buds that might bloom tomorrow and the other tiny buds that may not bloom tomorrow.

We were overawed to observe one more yellow friend who was fully bloomed and enjoyed a similar flower with some of the petals bloomed while others remained babies as yet.

We didn't skip the leaf that had yellow lines running across it.

We returned back home, enjoyed the evening breeze in our balcony, to capture one more yellow before we said farewell to the yellow in nature, only just for today. 

We know that our journey of connecting with nature will continue with more inspiring colours. If you are new to nature walking, this could be a first step for you. Taking a colour nature walk with your kids and family is the easiest, simplest and an inspiring one. Look for colours in general or a particular colour in nature and explore, connect and be blessed.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Whose Learning Is It Anyway?

A teacher in an International Indian school pointed out to the alphabet 'A' to S who was just over 3 years old and said, "Come on now say A apple". S replied, "A air plane". The teacher said, "No honey, A apple". S keenly gazed at her and said, 'A air plane". The teacher was at the end of the rope. She continued, "Sweet heart, say A A A as in apple". Then, she showed another flash card that had an apple picture in it and tried one more time, "Apple"; now with a bit irritated face. S nodded 'NO', made hand gestures of an air plane flying up in the sky and said 'Zoooom, A air plane". The teacher turned back and looked at me and said, "He is not listening".

Another day, S brought back home a worksheet that he needed to complete. The exercise was to match similar shaped fish in two columns. While I was beside him, I noticed that he looked at the worksheet and suddenly became so very sad. I didn't quiet understand when he started to cry querulously. The next thing he did was to pick a blue coloured crayon and he vigorously coloured the whole background. When he was done, he said, "No water and fish die, now no, they can't die. I put them in water". His eyes twinkled with joy because in his world, he saved the fishes by putting them back in water. He knew that is exactly how fishes could survive life; in water. The moment of realization that my sweet heart was aware of a huge fact about the life and death of a fish, was nothing but a jubilant moment for me. 

The next day I went to the school to pick him up when his teacher stopped by to chat with me. She said, "S has coloured the whole paper with blue. The exercise was just matching the same shaped fishes.". I smiled and exclaimed with sparkles in my eyes, 'He realized that fishes can not live without water and he coloured the whole background blue." The teacher replied in a stern voice, "He needs to follow instructions. He can't do his own things". I was shocked to hear this. I immediately felt that the teacher was not acknowledging what the child wanted to learn naturally. I felt that the child's autonomy was not respected and he was not given the freedom to express what he learnt. Later in his school days, this became a pattern. He was forced to learn and perceive things only according to the instructions provided by the teacher and worksheets. Creativity, critical thinking, freedom to express and think differently, self esteem, independence... the list goes on - everything went in the soup. 

My boy is now 8 years old. We recently visited Kabini, a popular wild life destinations and a river resort area in Karnataka, India. I was overawed when I saw the lush green fields, the humongous banyan trees, widespread sugar cane, turmeric, okra, ragi (finger millet), baby corn and cotton fields in and around Kabini. It was a treat for my eyes. My excitement bubbled up, beamed into my child and I really wanted him to enjoy the same treat. We stopped our vehicle to take a closer look at the fields. S enjoyed all the beauty and said, "Amma, it is so beautiful". Throughout the trip, I insisted my boy to watch the fields and intentionally showed him the plantations so that he could learn how and where crops are grown. I realized that he wasn't much interested in watching the fields.

Later, when we went for a walk near the lake around the resort, S was so fascinated by the 'touch me not' plants and started to play with it. There were plenty of them. We stopped by a place where some men were constructing a building. S wanted to stop and watch the men who were building a brick wall. He keenly observed how they were building a brick wall. Few months back, he wanted to understand - "How people build a brick wall?". He had even watched a You Tube video on that. Now, when he was able to really see some men being in action, he was excited to watch it. There was a huge heap of black stones near by. The stones were so beautiful and shiny. S wanted to pick one and keep it to himself. Three days passed by in a serene way, added fun and play for our little boy. S spent his time walking and marching on the sides of the lake and jumping in the trampoline. S also brought back, a stick of a tree branch that he was playing with. 

Back home, we rested for a day and he started to write about his trip. He needed my help to ask him open ended questions so that he could generate a content. He wrote all about how he played with the 'touch me not' plants, the tree twigs and how he jumped in a trampoline, his experience of visiting the elephant camp and more. He also mentioned that he brought back home a black stone and a stick from a tree branch. But, never he mentioned about the sugar cane, the finger millet and the cotton fields. I wondered how much I insisted that he connect with the lush green fields, but he still could not remember anything about the fields and the plantations. All he could remember while writing were the 'touch me not' plants, the tree stick, the  black stone, the trampoline fun and how he enjoyed walking along the sides of the lake. 

My point is - children learn what they see and live in a way that is pertinent to them. They are very present and conscious about how they perceive the resources around them. They construct knowledge and ideas related to what they are interested about.  They learn something because they are interested in that and not because we ask them to learn. And, they take sincere responsibility for their learning. When an educator allows a child to express what they learn and perceive in a way they see it, children feels acknowledged and their curiosity to learn more deeply, increases. 

A child sees an air plane in an 'A' while a teacher sees an apple. A child can feel that a fish can't survive without water and he pours out compassion with the help of a blue crayon to save those fishes. I look at the lush green fields while he is interested in the black stone, the twig and 'touch me not' plants. The child is perceiving his environment intently, learning what he wants to learn in a consistent manner. But we think, they are not listening to us or not learning what we want them to learn. 

As educators and learning partners of our children, let us stop, pause and ask ourselves this one powerful question, "How many times do we see through the eyes of a child?" There is a world out there with overflowing opportunities where our children learn continuously without any break. And they learn much more than what we want them to learn. Yes, they do learn. All the time. And, they sometimes seek beyond the limits that we set for them. It is only we don't see it. 

And when we see through their eyes, we will surely be able to acknowledge that there is abundance of learning happening in their world. And watch out, it may be more than what we think their capacities are. They may not be interested in learning about the shape of a fish, they may be learning much more than a mere shape - about the very life of a fish. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Sky Watching - Amazing Fire Rainbow

The land near our apartments is an empty one and it is our window to enjoy the nature, the greens and the blues which will probably be lost once another builder will occupy the land in few years. It has been our  (mine and our son's) usual activity nowadays to take some time, stand in our balcony and enjoy sky watching. Few days back, to our surprise we could see something like a rainbow in the sky. 

When we observed more keenly, we were sure that it wasn't a rainbow. S said in a quiet tone, "Amma, it seems like the fire rainbow that we read about". I remembered having seen a fire rainbow picture and information related to it in National Geographic few months back. Fire Rainbow, the flame like appearance is actually called as the circumhorizontal arc which is an ice halo formed by plate shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds.

I was sure the one that we saw was a fire rainbow. It was amazing to watch such a thing in the sky. I read that fire rainbow is the rarest of all naturally occurring atmospheric wonder. At that moment, I really felt blessed. 

Fire Rainbow captured in Navalur, South Chennai, India

Charlotte Mason says 

"Nature knowledge is the most important for young children. It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists..." (Vol 1, II Out of Door Life For the Children, p. 61)

Connecting with nature and seeking to learn more about it; has been something that we are busy with, in the recent few months.  Connection with nature has been slipping away from children in this generation.  It is been said that children grow healthier, wiser, more content when they are connected with nature. As a first step to provide my child an experience of the world that he lives in, I started to enjoy the nature myself. I am forming a habit to look in for simple natural things that is around me. I wish to have simple interactions  with nature that is available around me, include and encourage my son to participate in those moments. 

Sky watching can be an effective activity for sensory stimulation. I believe majority of our learning happens through 'Seeing'. Nowadays, I am inspired to create this bond with nature, because the moments when I become one with nature provides me a sense of healing in a sometimes hostile and frightening world. For a young learner, sky watching could be an activity that involves sensory stimulation, but in my case, it is also very holistic since it involves my emotions that requires stimulation to learn to heal myself. 

Needless to say that I have been experiencing these healing powers of incredible nature after I have started to learn with my son. I wish we could create such stimulating learning spaces and opportunities for ourselves that strengthens our connection with nature, make nature education as a part of our daily lives and embrace the wisdom inherent in nature.

Enjoy learning and Sharing. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Measuring Can Be Fun too

Children love to learn and they are very creative enough to transform their play into a learning experience. Learning need not be confined to worksheets and abstract concepts. When left alone, they could even come up with their own creative idea and invent their own learning method. The only thing that I learnt that I need as an educator is to keep restrain. I had to be patient enough to let ideas blossom naturally by giving time, space, freedom and by providing a loving and non interfering environment for him to unleash his creativity. S loves to play with Jenga blocks. You could believe what I am saying by looking at the pictures. 

One fine day, after playing with the blocks for some time, he was able to figure out that the Jenga blocks could be used as a tool to measure things at home. He measured as many objects as he could using the Jenga blocks and prepared a report that gave details about the length of each object that he measured. It was amazing to read the report he prepared in a quick manner that read "My noddy car is 2 Jenga blocks long. My favourite book is 3 Jenga blocks long. Our centre table is 11 Jenga blocks long..." I noticed that he generally writes slowly but the time he took to prepare this report was too very fast and I could not believe the speed with which he did that.

That leaves me with - Children can develop their own lesson plans. Knowledge and concepts amassed through such self directed learning is huge and lasts for ever because it is actually original. And that is so much fun for them too.

Enjoy learning and sharing.