What Learning Should Look Like

Take a moment to watch this short clip.  What observations do you make about the children during this learning experience?

This video was filmed yesterday at Discover Wild NH Day in Concord, N.H., a free community event hosted yearly by the state Department of Fish and Game.  For future reference, Discover Wild is a fun way for families to explore wildlife resources, outdoor activities and conservation.  There are a host of educational exhibits, live animals and hands-on activities for youth, including archery, casting, B-B gun shooting and fly tying. 

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In the future I plan to share such events beforehand.  This is a new page and I knew little beforehand about the event.  What compelled me to share was watching how captivated and engaged these children throughout the activity.

While producing outcomes is essential, the process side of learning is every bit important.  The type of learning captured in  these videos is hard to convert into numerical data.  Yet in these videos (see below as well), I noted active learning and skills that included students observing and analyzing changes; predicting; problem solving; inferring; experimentation; communicating and collaborating. 

Add to that an excitement toward learning, an indispensable ingredient to achieving academic success; new experiences for connecting to future learning; and relevant content to students in our geographical region.

School districts nationwide are stressing a greater need for pre-kindergarten and early education programs.  By age six the majority of the human brain's intellectual development is complete, which challenges schools when children enter kindergarten without having enough exposure to different experiences or stimulating interactions.  Many administrators and educational leaders say that the earlier they can work with these children the better chance to close those learning gaps that might hinder their education long term.  

Yet there is also debate in the education field about the best way to devote that time.  Many feel that using that time for enriching experiences and cultivating a curiosity and interest to learn needs more priority.  Take reading comprehension, for example.  Reading and vocabulary growth requires more than knowing letters and words.  The brain learns through making associations between new encounters (in this case, words) and knowledge it is already familiar with through experience.  Encountering the word "cow" for the first time is facilitated by whether a child has ever seen one.  When taking a child apple picking at a farm, we do not know beforehand which exposures and experiences will produce connections to future learning.  We just know that its an enriching, quality experience, and that those exposures will reward them.

Such is the case with this river activity. The demonstration does teach specific content (see video below, showing activity from its beginning). Yet there is more benefit to these children than we can even predict or calculate.   There is more happening here in this moment than a science lesson, with far greater academic payoff than one can imagine.  Love for learning may be the yeast in the bread of academic success.  

Thanks to Lee Wilder and Tom Taggart from the N.H., Department of Environmental Services for providing children with this activity.  

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