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Guide vs. Sage • Thursday, April 6th

Have you ever experienced the anxiety that comes from anticipating the millions of questions children are apt to ask on a nature walk, during a museum visit or any exploration of their world? Even if you are an expert, today’s vast amount knowledge in so many diverse areas, would make it impossible to be an expert in all of them. And of course, children will ask the questions you have no idea of how to answer!

In working with children, I have learned many things. One of the most important ones was that you did not have to be the sage, the all-knowing. You had to know how to frame the questions and guide the conversation. Have you ever tried to push a shopping cart through sand? Rather than pushing it, isn’t it easier to pull it along. The same can be said of learning. Instead of “pushing” your knowledge onto others, it is much better to “pull” them along in their own discovery. You should be the guide defining the exploration by the questions you ask.

The questions should be open-ended questions. They start with Why…? or When did you see…? or What do you think happened when…? These lead to deeper, more thoughtful answers and often give an insight on how the child looks at the world. A multitude of answers are possible. They are answered in sentences rather than a single word.

Close-ended questions usually only require a simple yes or no response. “What was it that you saw” would allow the child to elaborate not only on what they saw but where they saw it, what it was doing and what it might have meant to them instead of just answering “yes” or “no” to “Did you see that?”! Careful listening will point to further questions, continuing the discussion thereby enriching the experience of discovery and deepening the learning.

So when a child or student comes to you looking for an answer, turn it back to them. Ask a question in response and then look for the answer together. The child’s question “Why are leaves shaped the way they are?” can be countered with” I am not quite sure but what happens to leaves when it rains?” or “How do leaves act when the wind blows through the forest?” This should lead to the library, a trip outside for observations or doing an experiment on how water runs off a leaf’s surface. Hands on experience turns into a knowledge base which builds an understanding of the world.

So much more rewarding than having to live under the expectation of knowing it all and then being stumped by an unexpected!

Posted by MrK@exordium-adventure.com on 2017-04-06

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