Today’s tip includes a specific activity for those of us that live where it snows. We just got about eight inches here in Pine Cove with more to come. But keep reading even if it’s not going to snow where you live this week. I’m also going to talk about an important idea about human learning that you can apply to any learning situation you create.
The activity? Go out and play in the snow with your kids! Stick your tongues out and let the snow melt in your mouth! Eat snow! Feel how it feels in your mouth. Lie in the snow and watch the snow fall from the sky! Make snowballs! Pay attention to what happens when you squeeze snow! Hold same-size snowballs in your gloved and ungloved hands and compare what happens! Make two same-sized snowballs and put one on the snow and the other inside an extra glove and then on the snow and check on them both after 10 minutes? Go sledding! Make a snowman!
And ask your children questions about their physical experiences. What does snow feel like? Does it have a smell? Does it make a sound when it falls. What color is it? Does it have a taste? What happens when you squeeze snow and why? What happens to snow when you hold it in a gloved and ungloved hand? How does your hand feel when you hold snow in it with your gloves off compared to when you hold it with your gloves on? What happened to the snowball in the glove compared to the snowball directly on the snow compared to the one you put inside the glove? Why do gloves make your hands warm but don’t melt a snowball? What happens to the snow after you sled over it multiple times? Why do we seem to slide on snow when it’s a bunch of solid spikey bits? (hint: sleds don’t slide on snow, they slide on a thin layer of snow that melts (i.e. water) from the friction and pressure from you sledding over it). Why, when you hold a snowball in your bare hand does your hand get cold and why does the snow melt?
The above are just a sampling of questions at different levels that we can ask children based on their embodied experiences. And you don’t have to know the answers to the questions you ask. You can research them together later. Note that not all questions are created equal. I tried to order the above questions from those that stick close to the physical experience (e.g., How does snow feel in your hand?) to those that are more conceptual (e.g., Why, when you hold a snowball in your bare hand does your hand get cold and why does the snow melt?). Younger children probably won’t be able to do much with the more conceptual questions but asking them those questions certainly won’t hurt them. Older children will be able to contemplate the more conceptual questions and will be way more interested in such contemplation because those questions grew out of their direct experience and built upon more experiential questions.
Compare these two scenarios: (1) Your child holds a snowball in their bare hand. You ask them what happens to the snow. They say it’s melting or turning into water. You ask them how their hand feels. They say cold. You ask them why is the snow melting and why do their hands feel cold. (2) Your child is told to read section 3 of chapter 2 in their science textbook and then to: Use your own words to explain thermal conduction.