Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Provocation Shifts Thinking

Mary and I offered the children a provocation at the table we set each day for observational drawing. We placed a yellow carnation in a small vase of water with three drops of black liquid. The children recognized that this experiment was similar to our thinking about color and leaves.

During the course of several days the children sketched the carnation as it absorbed the black water. Later we discussed what we noticed.

J: The flowers turned green and the petals started turning smaller and crinkled.
A: I think they are getting dark.
AL: I think the liquid is really dark blue and when you take blue and yellow and mix it together it makes green.
I: The water turned black because of the black liquid just like in my theory.
L: This plant is trying to suck up the black liquid and it doesn’t look yellow any more it looks green.
N: I am wondering if this bud will turn into a black flower.
J: I see a little bit of green color in the lower stem.
C: It makes good sense black liquid makes leaves color.

As we listened to this discussion we realized that the children had moved forward in their thinking. There was a shift in the understanding of roots and their role sustaining a tree.

Some of the earlier thinking:

There are pipes way lower than the roots.

The water from the rain goes into the roots and then into the soil.

Rain goes into the tree then pipes take it through the tree to the roots.

I think there are pipes and a water elevator. 

Maybe the rats carry the water up.

Shifting thinking requires much reflection on the part of teachers. What provocations do we offer? What questions do we ask to prompt the children to consider many variables? It also requires a trust and belief in the ability of children to think, collaborate and construct meaning.

Letting go is always difficult. There is a need to control, verify, test and guarantee understanding. The culture of adulthood is results orientated with the need for instant gratification. However, if take children and place them in this culture and insist that they leave their understandings and perspectives behind are children really learning? 

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