Each child has an explorer within who is itching to get hold of anything and everything that meets the eye. Every nook and corner of our homes can be powerful learning centres waiting to be dismantled by the explorer residing within each child. It is amazing how the environment around us can be a perfect lab that can generously provide potential bricks for organic learning in our children. Almost all the issues that we face in our structured education system like breeding unhappiness, poor engagement and children viewing tasks as unreal and irrelevant can actually be overcome in a jiffy if children are made to explore and engage with the world around them.
Though we accept and realise that the world around us can be a perfect learning laboratory, the perceived challenge that parents, grandparents and other caregivers find is, not knowing ‘HOW‘ to use the environment as an effective tool for learning. A toddler while playing with pots and pans could well be building skills of shapes, materials, measurements, dimensions, volume and perhaps even sonority and malleability, who knows? The kind of neural connections children make while playing and manipulating objects are usually intangible, and show up mostly when complex learning takes place in school.
For parents it is important to understand that while the child will get formal and structured learning at school, learning at home can be a powerful pillar that can scaffold skill building in multiple ways and multiple areas, building multiple intelligence in children. If we extend the pots and pans example a bit more, one might find a child learning key pre- number skills along with understanding the beats and rhythms, constructing music skills, while happily banging pots and pans incessantly as a fun activity in the kitchen. However lofty the idea may sound, keeping aside a few hours as exploration time at home on a daily basis should be a part of homework that schools could give. This will not only help children develop multiple skills for life, but also help them identify and explore their passions.
Let’s look at Five ways in which Exploratory time at home can change the entire landscape of learning in children:
- Explorations can make learning Real : It is often seen that children find things boring and disengaging when tasks are perceived as unreal. When they are exploring with things themselves and using real and familiar things, then the schematic processing is at a deeper level.
- Explorations can make learning Contextual: When a child establishes contextual relevance towards the task at hand, he or she finds the task meaningful and its relevance gets immediately established.
- Explorations can help children Construct their own knowledge: When children construct their own knowledge, learning seeps to deeper layers and the process gets perceived as meaningful and relevant.
- Explorations can instil the spirit of Innovation: Many a times we find children dismantling toys and rebuilding them. This in a way opens up a huge dimension of learning and gives children the first step towards innovation as they rebuild objects in their own way which may or may not be aligned to the way they originally were.
- Explorations can build the spirit of Risk Taking: When children construct things they become effective risk takers and love to take up challenges in life, developing a key life skill of risk taking right from early childhood.
Explorations at home can be joyous and meaningful activities that shape children into life long learners.
In my opinion, as the first step, parents could consciously allow children to spend hours by themselves in familiar spaces, manipulating familiar objects to construct their own knowledge. The length and breadth of learning can get hugely stretched when children manipulate objects and create meaningful solutions. When familiar spaces and objects are used for exploratory processes, learning is deeper because the barriers of fear and apprehension do not step in during the process of establishing knowledge. Using familiar objects in places like kitchens, bathrooms, verandahs and balconies can be spaces worth exploring at home learning centres. Window sills have proven to be powerhouses of learning and many educators have tried to tap that space to provide complex learning through exploratory projects. It is a proven fact that when children start making curricular connections with their own environment, learning becomes far deeper and meaningful, than any structural schooling. All these ideas are great but may just remain a distant dream unless school and home learning isn’t blended using mindful explorations to construct knowledge. From an educators perspective, there is a critical need of mindful pedagogical interventions to unleash the power of explorations at home to not only preserve the in born magic and wonder in children but also make learning deeper, meaningful and real. Though, honestly speaking it may seem very challenging at times.