Welcome back to our “big kid” alumni! Many of them have been happily populating our school this week as many of the ongoing schools are on spring break. Our “junior interns,” as Felicia and I have taken to calling them, have infused the school with a sense of possibility, affording our young students an image of what is to come for them. Reading! Writing! Math! Ignoring your mother! Chewing gum!
All jests aside, seeing our recent alumni next to our current students is a powerful image. I had the chance to sit down this week with a 2nd grader who came by to drop off her brother, in our 3yr old program. I happened to also have been her teacher here when she was in our 3s program. “What are you learning these days?” I asked. She responded with glee, “Different strategies for addition and subtraction.” How proud her teachers should be!
What we believe to be true about education is that the approach, the “how,” matters more than the content, the “what.”
We continued chatting as I asked, “So then, how about seventeen plus nine?” She went through three strategies, each time getting a different, and wrong, answer. On the fourth strategy, she settled on twenty-six. As she beamed with pride, we spoke about how knowing “twenty-six” was not as important as knowing how to get there.
Later that day, the students in Classroom 7, one of our 3yr old classes, conducted a science experiment. The teachers had planned a “sink or float” activity, in which children predict whether different objects will sink or float. The children, of course, had other thoughts about it. One predicted, “I think it’s going to move from side to side.” The child was right – the cellophane paper settled on top of the water with only a slice of water moving over it. The paper neither sunk nor floated but did indeed move from side to side. Another child said, about a cork, “It will go up, down, up, down, up.” The child, again, was right – the cork bobbed in the water.
It is not the content knowledge – the “what” – that mattered in their experiment, which left them enriched. Yes, they now know more about floating, bobbing, and sinking. But it was the approach – the “how” – that more significantly impacts our children. They were allowed and encouraged to approach the activity with divergent and creative thoughts. They were not confined to a narrow way in which to understand the phenomena they were witnessing.
By expanding the “how”, by broadening our possible approaches, we are setting our children up for success in their ensuing academic environments (not to mention many other aspects of their lives!). The connection to me was clear. An inquisitive environment in nursery school gives children the skills they need to tackle the complex math, literacy, and social topics in later grades.