Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Blue Soap

I was going through some old school papers the other day, and found one where I related this story about blue soap. It was a great reminder about the power of allowing kids to make their own learning discoveries.

A preschool student had been painting using blue paint. I observed her as she went over to the sink to wash her hands. The soap in the dispenser came out as white foam, and as she began to rub her hands together with it, it began to turn blue. I watched as she suddenly became interested in the blue soap, and then also noticed how the water running down also began to turn blue. She said:

"It's all blue. I can even make blue soap. It changes the soap!" 

Her apparent excitement was the direct result of a discovery about the world that she made all on her own. It is my belief that this kind of learning is much more meaningful and engaging to a child than if I had stood up in front of the class and turned the soap blue. She didn't need me to do that to learn what she learned-- I didn't even have to say anything to her as she stood at the sink. She was able to learn from her own experience. 
Sometimes I think that teachers get so stressed out about everything we need to teach that we feel the need to control every aspect of the learning environment. We are so worried that students learn the material that we miss out on moments like this one because we jump in and do all of the talking or even the interacting with materials. There is a time for direct instruction, but there is so much more that children can learn from doing it themselves. 

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