Thursday, October 18, 2012

I Can Figure It Out Myself

I set out for my daily walk today hoping for inner peace and calm. What I found was a bit of inspiration. About a half mile into my walk I saw a little girl, could not have been much more than two if that, approach some stairs. The stairs were high even for an adult but she walked up to them and without hesitation started climbing them using all four limbs. In no time at all she was at the top of the stairs waiting for the door to open.

I seriously doubt anyone taught her to climb stairs. This is something little ones learn on their own. They see adults walk up stairs long before they are ready to attack them themselves so they have to know that one way up is to walk. I have watched little ones try to step up but they quickly realize that is not going to work  for them. They never give up though. Going up stairs is something they want to do so they find a way. Just because big people use two limbs does not tell them that they can’t use four so they do.

We don’t build alternate paths for toddlers to get around stairs. We either block stairs off or let children work it out for themselves. We know they will because toddlers are curious about everything and they are creative. Any parent can tell you stories of little ones getting into things that they parents thought was child proof.

While children will ask to be picked up when they are tired or bored or just want mommy or daddy they tend not to ask how to do things. They don’t ask how do I walk or crawl or get up the stairs. They figure it out. I think they may not even know that asking how to do something is an option for the first few years of their lives. Somewhere along the line that changes though.

As students get older we tell them in more and more detail how to do things. We don’t ask them to solve problems so much as we teach them how to do specific things. By the time they get to middle school they want every detail of a project spelled out for them in step by step instructions. Why do we do that to them?

This is sort of the killing creativity to go along with my killing curiosity post of the other day. What we should be doing more of it pointing students in a direction, hand them some tools, and saying figure it out yourself. The world needs more people looking at problems with creativity and fewer trying to fit old solutions to new problems.


Eugene Wallingford said...

This reminds me of Alan Kay's reminder that children speak the same language as adults. I learned to speak by learning the same languages used by Shakespeare and Vonnegut. We can use a subset as we grow, gradually growing the subset, both vocabulary and grammar.

KFunk said...

Given that students are so used to having every tiny detail spelled out, I have found that when they get to my class they get really confused when I don't do this. I teach at a community college and my VB class was somewhat stressful for many students. It led to some interesting comments on my end of semester course evaluations.