I remember as a small child we lived with an elderly man, Walter, and our family took care of him. I loved to take slow, leisurely walks with Walter. Years later, I asked my Mom why he seemed to favor my little sister with those coveted walks. She said he told her that I asked too many questions.
I have a granddaughter now and I love taking the time to hear Lily’s questions.
I want to help Lily think like a scientist. I don’t go straight for the answer, I engage her in a dialog with questions of my own:
I love “watching” Lily think, struggle for the words to communicate her ideas, and see the light bulb turn on when she has figured out an answer to her question.
How do you answer your child’s questions? What do you think I mean by teaching your child to think like a scientist?
Dear Jane, I really liked you post, which led me to consider the following:
IBM has adopted our school, affording us numerous opportunities to be exposed to IBM engineers and employees. We constantly discuss the need to "listen", which is an art for adults as well as children. Also, we constantly consider the question "what if", along the lines of wonderings.. Not sure if this adds anything to the conversation, but could not help jumping in.
Principal, JFK Magnet School for Math, Science, and Technology
Great question, Jane! It reminds me of one of the toughest lessons I learned in my first year of law school: how to "think like a lawyer."
The heart of your question--how to move past fact-based learning to a model focused on thought and the process of learning--is critical if we are to teach our children how to thrive in the years to come.
I often use the old proverb about "teaching a man to fish" with my children. They often come to me seeking answers, only to be initially frustrated when I respond with questions for them. It's all worthwhile, though, when you see them struggle with the thought process and come out on the other side with the answer they arrived at by themselves with just a little independent thought.
I'll be interested to read about what others are doing. I know that what we do in Wonderopolis with curious questions certainly helps parents to engage their children in independent thought with simple questions they can find throughout the site.
I try to keep any kind of learning I do with my own kids informal. So, I wait for their questions about scientific topics to arise organically. For instance, they both love to look at the night sky (as most kids and adults do, I think). When they ask me questions about the moon or stars, or during a discussion about those things, I tend to try to get them to reason out their thoughts by asking them "Why do you think that is...?" or "What do you think about...?" They have some wonderful ideas about the world around them and I love to here what they think about what they see every day. After all, science is all around us, waiting to be discovered.
What an interesting discussion! Jane you are wise to encourage Lily's questioning. Another interesting strategy you can use with young children is to lay the groundwork for how we know something scientifically. Sometimes you have to try something many times to be sure it will work the same way each time. One of my favorite examples of this is the invention of the game Pooh Sticks in The House on Pooh Corner. As Pooh watches his pine cone float away down the river he says to himself: "I dropped it on the other side, and it came out on this side. Hm... I wonder if it would do it again. " Now, that's thinking like a scientist!
I remember that story! I love reading Pooh stories to the children in my life.
Are children just naturally thinking like scientists and we drill it out of them or do scientist really think like children?
I like the way you stated that, and I will wonder right along with Lily.