Monday, October 27, 2008

The Joy of Learning

My son is currently working on his first research project, which could be a bit intimidating, as he is only in first grade. Yet, it is going quite well, and I just had to record some thoughts. The days of Show-and-Tell have passed at my son's school (it is a magnet school for G/T students), and we've moved into the world of Teach-and-Tell. So, rather than grab a toy or a picture and talk about it, my son is developing a seven-minute presentation on Cherry Creek State Park, which is about one minute from our house and a favorite playground for the two of us. Originally, he came home and asked to go over to the park to "look for something to talk about." As we rode our bikes through encountering, among other things, a huge glossy snake crossing the path, a hawk swooping in to take a rabbit or squirrel, a mother deer and her fawn, and several birds we'd never seen before from the watcher's perch, we concluded that the entire park should become his subject. He decided to share his personal playground with his classmates.

Because the project is in a couple weeks and we are home on fall break, I thought it would be a good time to begin. As my son sat on the couch looking through his Insects of North America book, and I started a few housecleaning projects, I suggested he begin looking through some of the books we checked out of the library, as he needs three sources for the presentation. Initially, he was a little frustrated, claiming he didn't know what to say or what to write. So, I asked him to just look at the books and if he saw anything interesting he'd like to tell his friends, he could write it down. By the time I got a load of laundry in, his sister bathed, and the floor mopped, he was engaged, calling out different facts as he wrote them down. We've now started "post-it noting" the books and making lists of favorite facts and activities. These are research skills that I teach my juniors in high school, and I can introduce the skills with no problem to a six-year-old who is having fun making a list of "neat things" about the park.

This has been quite fascinating, as I help my son become engaged in the formality of research, he remains focused on the joy of discovery. There is much to learn from this, and that is what my job as both a teacher and a parent is all about.

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