Wonders of Discovery: Insight of a Pre-school Teacher

Think about a time when you were really interested about something. What did you do or wish you had done? How would you describe the process or what stopped you from doing what you wished you had done?

Just recently, I witnessed someone using an electric saw and in that instance, I was really curious about how to handle and use the tool. Before I even placed my hands on it, there were comments made by different individuals i.e. “It’s so loud…”, “This is really heavy!”, “Everytime I use this, I’m scared” and etc. Naturally after hearing such comments, I had second thoughts about trying it out.

It is a natural instinct that when we are curious about something new, we want to explore with it. Be it whether it is an idea, a material or a tool; through exploration, we discover. This is the same for our children. Children are innately curious about the world around them. They constantly observe, manipulate, create and wonder. This is evident in the myriad ways in which children use their senses to explore their environment and when they experiment with materials and ideas to develop deeper understanding.

Zoe and little Ms A (Forest School session, 2017)

The question is how can we, as adults support children’s innate desire to know more about the world around them? Do we pause and encourage children to explore and communicate their thoughts? How are we providing opportunities for children to find out answers by themselves through a process of investigation? Are there ample direct experiences about what they are wondering about? Sometimes we unknowingly send messages through our words and deeds that discourage our children from being curious, just like the comments I heard before using the electric saw. What could be some words and/or actions that we unintentionally discouraged our children from exploring and discovering more?

I remembered vividly that I once saw a child playing with his bowl of food and spoon during lunch time. He was hitting on the handle of the spoon repeatedly and food was all over the place. He was really engaged and kept smiling whilst hitting the spoon. Just when I was about to stop him, guess what? I realised that he was looking and following the movements of the spoon intently. It was only then that I realised that he was experimenting with the idea of force and cause-and-effect. If I hit the handle of the spoon hard, it launches higher and at a greater distance.

Very often as adults, we get upset or even angry when we see mess on our children or the physical space that we have to clean up. What if we redirect our attention to the joy and fulfilment our children experience that only comes from discovery?

When children engage in the process of discovery, they develop positive dispositions i.e. risk taking, flexibility, creativity and etc which are essential for future success. The opportunities that we provide to nurture these dispositions in the early years are undeniably essential.

One of the quotes that resonated deeply with me – “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think”. With the growing expectations of formal schooling systems, we often give our children so many facts to remember rather than nurturing them to be self-directed and engaged learners. Wouldn’t learning be more meaningful if our children were emotionally and socially engaged?

The process of discovery itself is beautiful. Sometimes we might not achieve the result we have in mind but we discover new things through the process. Perhaps if we can all try to see the beauty behind it, we can then become more connected to our children.

Written by: Zoe Xu
Senior Teacher, Hampton Pre-School
[Alumni Coach of Forest School Singapore (2018-19)]

Article above was published in Hampton Pre-School Newsletter (2017)

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