Have you ever wondered what it means when people say learning occurs naturally? Or when someone says they see the opportunity for learning in everything they do?
Let me paint a picture for you.
This scenario occurred during our stay at Osprey in Cape Range, WA. These opportunities occurred over the course of one day with my two children Jaxon (4) and Kai (7).
Opportunity 1 – Jaxon found his brothers’ clock with adjustable hands that we use for teaching time in maths. He wanted to make the time that it was on his clock. We showed him very simply how to make o’clock times with the big hand on the twelve. We asked him to show us a few.
opportunity 2 – We prepared for a walk to Yardie Creek Trail. Along the drive there, we saw a Tiger Snake (or so we thought) lying on the road. We slowed down, stopped and showed the kids. Took some photos and watched his movements for a minute. When we arrived at Yardie Creek for our walk we revisited snake awareness and what to do when you see a snake. Snakes became the topic of conversation for much of that walk. We saw some rock wallabies and kangaroos. Discussion arose about how a rock wallaby may have got its name so we discussed that it is likely from them inhabiting rocky areas. Jaxon asked if there was such a thing as a lion snake. We said we thought that was an interesting thought because you’ve that that from the Tiger Snake that we had seen so we discussed how the Tiger Snake would have got its name. We then discussed how the Lion Fish may have got its name. Upon return to our van, we got out the Western Australia Field Guide app on the i-Pad and looked up the Tiger Snake. We read, discussed and looked at pictures.
Note: We later discovered that this snake was actually a python, not a Tiger Snake
Opportunity 3 – We walked to Osprey Beach and saw jelly fish. The kids discussed what type they thought it might be drawing upon the information that had been told about jellyfish in the area and what they had already seen. Jaxon found a butterfly (dead). We talked about how butterflies don’t live for very long and that they start their lives as caterpillars. This was new information for Jaxon, being only four years old. He investigated the butterfly, holding it in his hands and looking at it closely. Jaxon then inquisitively asks “How long do plants live?” as well as “Are common octopus living things”. We talked about what plants need to live. We talked about what made something a living thing. All the while Kai who is older was also explaining his answers for things to Jaxon. We watched a turtle pass by from the beach and we watched the Red Bell Jellyfish swimming in the water. Kai commented that he was not surprised there are so many turtles because there are lots of jellyfish to eat. We wondered if turtles eat all jellyfish or if they are selective. Upon returning to the van we had a few things to look at. I had to show Jaxon some pictures of butterflies, caterpillars and their lifecycles. It was also the perfect opportunity to do some butterfly paintings with the kids (the ones where you paint half and fold it over and it is a mirror image). We also needed to research and find out what type of jellyfish turtles eat.
Opportunity 4 – We saw what looked like a Blue Bottle Jellyfish in the sand. It was strange as we had not seen a Blue Bottle in WA since we were in Lucky Bay so we investigated a bit further. I decided to pick it up with a shoe. We discovered that it was in fact a blue plastic bait bag that had been almost covered in sand. I told the kids that we would take it with us up to the bin and asked them if they knew why. Kai knew exactly why telling Jaxon that we didn’t want it to go back into the ocean as turtles often mistake plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. We recalled our visit to the turtle rehabilitation centre on Fitzroy Island where they said that plastic bags are one of the biggest causes of illness in turtles. We took the plastic bag with us and the kids watched me put it in the bin.
Opportunity 5 – The kids were fascinated by the salt deposits on the rocks. They played in it and enjoyed feeling the dried salt. I asked Kai if he knew how it had formed. He didn’t know the answer so we discussed how we had learned in science what happens to water when it is heated up by the sun, how it evaporates. I then cued him by saying, “What do you think would be left behind if the water evaporates?” He promptly answered “Salt”.
These are the recordings that I made for just one day spent with my kids, truly listening and engaging with them. If I had been on my phone on the Internet, on Facebook or even doing work I would have been distracted and missed these beautiful opportunities for learning. What did my kids learn from that day? Jaxon learned some basic foundations of reading clocks and understanding time. They learnt about being snake aware, why some animals are named as they are, how to locate more information if you want to know more and a little about the habitats of some animals. At the beach they learned and consolidated learning about butterflies and lifecycles, learned and consolidated learning about conserving our environment and how to protect our wildlife. Kai also consolidated some learning about how salt deposits are formed and how the sun can evaporate water. All the while having fun and not even realising that they are learning!
The children spent the remainder of that afternoon playing with other travelling children staying in the same location and hitting a few of those others boxes like learning social cues, personal space, confidence, imaginary play and how to share.
For your child to truly develop you need to be open to learning and help facilitate it. Answer repetitive questions that you no doubt have answered before. Encourage conversation all the time and really listen to them. Your aim should be to build your child’s vocabulary skills by talking through experiences (even the mundane ones), questioning your children and checking for understanding. It does not need to be done in isolation, rather seize opportunities when they arise!