“The child is already intensely active, and the question of education is the question of taking hold of his activities, of giving them direction… Children simply like to do things and watch to see what will happen. But this can be taken advantage of, can be directed into ways where it gives results of value, as well as be allowed to go on at random.”
John Dewey, The School and Society
As a child, I distinctly remember the summer sneaking up on me at the end of the school year. The winter months would crawl by, and I would imagine February and March lasting forever. This feeling would quickly be replaced by the rush of activity that would carry me into June. I would enter the summer with a list of things that I hoped to accomplish over the next couple of months.
One of my favorite summer activities was cooking with my parents. I particularly enjoyed baking. During one summer, I remember my mother experimenting with different bread recipes. I had seen my parents bake a number of times, but I became interested in learning about the science of baking bread. I was fascinated by the process and wanted to understand how the ingredients became dough, and how the dough grew in size. During that summer, I learned about yeast and how this living organism made the bread rise by breathing out carbon dioxide by “eating” the sugar in the dough. I remember being both intrigued and horrified by this discovery and the idea that microscopic creatures were involved in the process of making bread. I also remember thinking how much baking with my parents felt like being in a science lab.
In a few weeks, the children will be leaving the routine of the school day. They will, however, remain eager to investigate, create, explore, deconstruct and wonder. This fact, reflected in the opening quote of this piece, provides adults with an opportunity to facilitate moments during which those natural instincts can be harnessed to continue the learning throughout the summer months. I was recently directed to an article titled, The Five Best Toys of All Time
.This article is worth the read, but, in short, the author identified sticks, string, dirt, boxes, and cardboard tubing as the best toys of all time. It was a recognition that children’s natural instincts to create and investigate should inform the choices that adults make with respect to setting up optimal learning situations for children. This article reminded me of this year’s “Global Cardboard Box
” challenge which took place in October.
At the end of each “What to Expect” presentation, Debra, Judy and I have shared some suggestions regarding things that parents and caregivers can do with children over the summer months in order to continue the learning. Across the different age groups, a few common suggestions were: read to and with your child daily, cook with your child, explore a new location in the city, or visit a museum.
The summer is an opportunity for you to continue the work that children have engaged in all year- that of making meaning of the world around them, investigating questions, and problem solving. In doing so, you can be assured that they will return in September ready to take on the challenges of the coming school year.