Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Importance of Listening

S.E.E.D.S. takes an emergent lesson approach to curriculum development.  The curiosity of the learner is the required starting point.  For parents and teachers of very young children, the child’s limited language ability hampers effective communication.  In this sense, listening is not limited to the detection and processing of sounds and words.  The child’s behavior and actions are key sources of information for the care givers. 

Numerous studies show that children tend to learn best when they learn what interests them.  In other words, students learn what they want to learn.  Prof. Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” computer experiments aptly demonstrate that learning can be a self-organizing process.  ( 

The traditional school system is a top down affair.  Grownups determine the curriculum and tests (often in written form), and the education system force feeds content to the students who are expected to regurgitate it on exams to demonstrate their mastery of the subjects.  This mass production industrial / manufacturing model of education is given way to other techniques.  Some use the title “student centered learning” and “collaborative learning” but none seem to truly result in the child driven learning shown by Prof. Mitra’s experiments.  One child who mastered the lessons early self-selected to teach back to others in her village.

Another of Prof. Mitra’s ideas integrated to his child driven education model was the “granny cloud”.  These were grandmothers in the UK who volunteers to chat with young learner worldwide in Prof. Mitra’s experiment.  This is S.E.E.D.S. Community-base Education on a global scale.  In another experiment Mitra recruited a local accountant to introduce the “granny effect” to local children.  Without knowing anything about the lesson, the “granny role” was simply to encourage the children with praise and to ask the children to “show me what you learned.”  These simple actions encouraged the youngsters to further they own studies. 

It was encouraging to see so many parallels between Prof. Mitra’s work and some of the S.E.E.D.S. methods.  The whole process of education (from Latin “ex” and “ducere”, literally to lead out) is a very natural human activity.  Babies come into the world lacking the native language of their parents.  Yet driven by their innate curiosity, they explore, play, and learn about their world physically, emotionally, socially, and eventually economically as well.  If parents and teachers learn what the children are interested in learning, the benefit to the children will be astronomical. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Walk the Talk

There is an anonymous saying: “Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.”  Many adults are not fully aware of nor appreciate the turbo charged learning ability of young children.  With little language ability, “a picture is worth a thousand words” becomes a viable learning model for them.  Not surprising, parents and other family members are the most often view “pictures” in their world.

Parenting and caring for youngsters is a 24/7 non-stop job.  You are being scrutinized by the youngsters.  Along with the pictures, young children hear the spoken words of the other “grown-ups.”  They will have difficulty learning when deeds and words don’t match.  The words of Horton the elephant in Dr. Suess’s “Horton Hatches the Egg” serves as a practical guide: “I meant what I said and I said what I meant.  An elephant’s faithful one-hundred percent.”

The inconvenient reality is that double standards exist.  But it should be noted these are the direct result of a basic choice: You can be a Horton or you can be a non-Horton.  Things can be so much simpler if you say what you mean and mean what you say.  And there is an old saying “Actions speak louder than words.”

When it comes to education, teaching by example is a tried and true method that has stood the test of time.  The practitioners of “Do as I say and not as I do” send mixed messages to young learners.  Consistency between deeds and words allows young children to recognize patterns that shape their behavior and learning.  These patterns help them to forecast and predict events in their daily lives.  Certainly there will be changes and variations.  For example, sunrise is the end of night and the start of a new day.  The sky becomes lighter and brighter in the morning.  But if storm clouds are present, the morning sky will be darker, but the night is still ending.  Most of us realize it is still the start of a new day.

Consistency is a challenge for everyone especially after a long tiring day.  But parenting and teaching require constant diligence during a child’s formative years.  What happens in the child’s first three years sets the tone for learning for the rest of their lives.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

You have the freedom to nurture curiosity

A key hallmark of America’s founding was protecting the freedom of choice.  Growing up and getting educated in the U.S. was couched in and saturated with freedom of choice.  The Sustainable Early Education Development System (S.E.E.D.S.) is predicated on free choice.  Parents, teachers, and students self-select to participate and implement S.E.E.D.S. ideas and practices.  

Freedom of choice is the foundation for fostering and nurturing young curious minds.  It goes hand in hand with allowing a child to follow her/his curiosity in exploring their world.  Restricting a child’s curiosity limits their freedom of choice.  This ultimately leads to stifling their learning and informal and formal education.  It may not be possible to cater to the full range of choices a child might want.  But it is essential to routinely provide a child with choices AND linking the choices to responsibility for the consequences of that choice.

Babies are born into the world and must acquire the language of their parents.  Lack of effective communication is a common problem between parents and young children.  Ironically, some children seem to communicate with each other using a language unfamiliar to adults.  While many adults assume the babies don’t have a language, another way to look at it is the adults don’t understand the babies’ language.  From the child’s perspective, the big people don’t seem to understand but seem trainable.  The baby cries and the world moves around them.  They have power.  Eventually, in most cases, both babies and parents seem to work it out and develop a comprehension of a common language.

The parents’ juggling act is to nurture and foster the child’s curiosity while allowing optimum freedom of choice.  Parents are naturally protective of children.  What follows is the classic Goldilocks pattern.  Too little protection (i.e. little or no parental control or nearly total freedom) can, at worst, be misinterpreted as parental neglect.  At best, some of these children may become super outstanding.  Too much protection (i.e. full-on over protection) can manifest itself in absolute authoritarian control.  These children may be timid and lack self-confidence.  Somewhere in between is the “just right” mix of protection and freedom.  We aren’t sure how to characterize these children.  Hopefully they have their curiosity intact.  They may become life-long learners, critical thinkers, effective problem solvers, and socially responsible people.  This is what S.E.E.D.S. hopes to empower parents, teachers, and students to achieve.