Ways to learn

In ad­di­tion to for­mal ed­u­ca­tion, a child can learn and pick up skills through many other ways.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FAMILY - By SAMI GROVER age a cul­ture where we view tech­nol­ogy not just as some­thing we con­sume, but some­thing we can ma­nip­u­late and use to shape the world around us.

LEARN Ger­man? When am I ever go­ing to use that in a job?!” As a young lan­guage geek, that’s the kind of re­frain I heard reg­u­larly in my high school Ger­man classes.

And it’s an at­ti­tude that’s of­ten re­flected by par­ents, teach­ers, politi­cians and the com­mu­nity at large. We’ve come to think of ed­u­ca­tion in nar­row, of­ten util­i­tar­ian terms and are in dan­ger of ig­nor­ing some of the most im­por­tant learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties there are.

Here are some ex­am­ples that in­volve the youngest (and prob­a­bly most im­por­tant) group of learn­ers: kids.

Play­ing with food

“Don’t play with your food! Just eat!” We’ve all heard this re­frain and, for those of us who are now par­ents, we’re prob­a­bly guilty of ut­ter­ing some­thing sim­i­lar our­selves.

But play­ing with your food can be a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. As the hus­band of a di­eti­tian, my wife of­ten re­minds me that mush­ing, smear­ing and gen­er­ally mak­ing a mess can be a child’s way of ex­plor­ing un­fa­mil­iar foods.

And there’s also re­search to show that chil­dren may learn cer­tain words bet­ter if they get a chance to play with their food too.


Phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion is get­ting squeezed out of many schools, in favour of sci­ence, math, and what­ever else might help get test scores up. Yet, we learn an aw­ful lot when we’re out there get­ting sweaty.

From the chal­leng­ing con­cepts of leader- ship and team work, to some tan­gi­ble demon­stra­tions of the laws of physics, ex­er­cise can be a great way to see the­ory in prac­tice.

In fact, the sim­ple act of ex­er­cis­ing it­self can en­hance learn­ing and dis­ci­pline when kids get back in the class­room too, and pro­grammes like the Walk­ing Class­room are com­bin­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity with core con­tent knowl­edge at the same time.

Un­struc­tured play

We may feel pres­sured to have a struc­tured pro­gramme for ev­ery minute of our child’s day. But as an ex­cel­lent ar­ti­cle over at Scholas­tic notes, a frenzy of play dates, af­ter school clubs and ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties may de­prive our chil­dren of some­thing equally valu­able.

“There is a myth that do­ing noth­ing is wast­ing time, when it’s ac­tu­ally ex­tremely pro­duc­tive and es­sen­tial,” Dr Kathy Hirsh-Pasek says. “Dur­ing empty hours, kids ex­plore the world at their own pace, de­velop their own unique set of in­ter­ests and in­dulge in the sort of fan­tasy play that will help them fig­ure out how to cre­ate their own hap­pi­ness, han­dle prob­lems with oth­ers on their own, and sen­si­bly man­age their own time. That’s a crit­i­cal life skill.”

Play­ing video games

Video games have be­come a handy scape­goat for all that’s wrong with our youth: vi­o­lence, obe­sity and at­ten­tion deficit dis­or­der. But there’s some ev­i­dence to sug­gest that video games may have real cog­ni­tive and phys­i­cal ben­e­fits.

Ed­u­ca­tors are now seek­ing to har­ness those ben­e­fits for im­proved ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ences.

Ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts are also push­ing chil­dren to learn com­puter cod­ing, hop­ing to en­cour-

As I noted above, chil­dren learn bet­ter if they play with their food. We also know that get­ting out in na­ture and get­ting a lit­tle muddy can be a great ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.

But messi­ness is not just about phys­i­cal mess, it has a con­cep­tual el­e­ment too. Ac­cord­ing to ed­u­ca­tion writer Ian Flukes, we need to en­cour­age schools to em­brace “messy prob­lems,” mov­ing away from a pure fo­cus on “right an­swers” and sim­ple equa­tions to also ex­plore real world chal­lenges that in­clude am­bi­gu­ity and doubt.

Messy prob­lems have no sin­gle, cer­ti­fi­ably cor­rect an­swer. There is no “one right way” to solve a prob­lem like “should I get mar­ried” or “what should I study in col­lege?” The an­swer is the goal, but the an­swer can man­i­fest it­self in many cor­rect ways and lead to a lot of un­ex­pected learn­ing along the way.

Am­bi­gu­ity en­velopes us. It be­gins at birth and fol­lows us through to the last days of our lives. From start to fin­ish, life is messy.

Think be­yond facts

Ul­ti­mately, we don’t need to worry about whether or not our chil­dren will learn. It’s what they were lit­er­ally built to do. But we need to think hard about what and how they will learn.

In a world where data and knowl­edge is ac­ces­si­ble at the touch of a but­ton, fill­ing a young mind with facts has lit­tle to no value in my book.

What does sound more in­ter­est­ing, how­ever, is teach­ing a child how to think, and do­ing so in ways that ex­plore the full di­ver­sity, won­der and chal­lenge of the com­pli­cated, am­bigu­ous and of­ten messy world around us. – Mother Na­ture Net­work/McClatchy Tri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Learn­ing through play: One of the ways chil­dren learn is through un­struc­tured play. — aFP

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