By Jill Simeone -
Jean Piaget (1896-1980) is considered by many to the be the founding father of inquiry into the intellectual development of children. His work led to the development of the scientific fields of cognitive theory and developmental psycholgy.
According to educational psychologist Kendra Cherry,
"[Piaget] concluded that children are not less intelligent than adults, they simply think differently. Albert Einstein called Piaget's discovery 'so simple only a genius could have thought of it.' ... He believed that children are like 'little scientists,' actively trying to make sense of the world rather than simply soaking up information passively."
Trained as a psychologist in the early 20th century, Piaget came to education later in his career as he sought answers on how young minds learn.
According to Professor Alberto Munari (from the University of Geneva, and a student of Piaget), Piaget, in a series of speeches he delivered after World War II, controversially criticized the rote nature of traditional education, and proposed that children most effectively learned experientially:
"All modern psychology teaches us that intelligence proceeds from action", hence the fundamental role that the exercise of research must play in all educational strategies.
That research, however, must not be an abstraction, for "Action presupposes prior research, and research has value only with a view to action". A school without coercion, then, where pupils actively experiment. ... Here, in outline, we already have Piaget’s blueprint for education.
However, "Children do not learn to experiment simply by watching the teacher performing experiments", he warns "or by doing exercises organized in advance; they learn by a process of trial and error, working actively and independently, that is, without restriction and with ample time at their disposal". ... On this principle, ... Piaget did not fear controversy: "In most countries, however, the school turns out linguists, grammarians, historians and mathematicians but fails to educate the inquiring mind. It is important to remember that it is much more difficult to train an experimental mind than a mathematical mind at primary and secondary school [...]. It is much easier to reason than to experiment".
"Why are you telling me all this? This guy looks really old!", you're thinking.
Well, it's hard to pick up a newspaper without hearing about the national focus on improving preschool curriculum and standards for math and literacy (all good)...but I haven't seen so much ink dedicated to preschool science learning and the skills attributed to scientific thinking. So I decided to dig in and see what the story is.
"Until recently, science has been the ignored academic stepchild of language and math. ... The preschool years became a focus for providing critical foundations for language, emergent literacy and math, [but] educators are now asking whether science should be introduced in preschool. Science is not “new” to preschool. ... However, a recent analysis of Head Start school readiness data in one state finds that on average, children leave the Head Start program for kindergarten with science readiness scores significantly lower than scores on the other seven school readiness domains."
In other words, Piaget's paradigm of teaching children to learn experientially - essentially through scientific method - is still challenging schools and educators today.
So, to address this gap (and offer some indoor fun to get us through the last legs of winter), Cozy Owl will be celebrating Science Month this February. We will not only be talking about science topics, but we'll offer suggestions on how to explore these topics "with an experimental mind". Come join us for collaborative learning, including:
- the physical property of materials
- plants & animals
- weather & seasons
- the human body
See you in February!