Sunday, August 12, 2012

You Won't Find Dinosaurs in Your Backyard

If you want your children to really understand and retain something, you give them things that are attainable; things they can see, touch, hear, smell, and taste.  A real leaf is better than a fake one, and a real orange is better than a picture, right?
Dinosaurs are mesmerizing to children, they are the giants of their imaginations, but how much can a child really learn from them?  What resources do you have access to?  I use the example of dinosaurs because they are extinct.  We are all limited in what we can do to share information about them, just as I am limited in helping Aidan understand and experience all the "joys" of snow (for example - the best kind for making snowmen, the way the wind swirls it around in the air, the sound it makes when you walk in it, how cold it feels, and what snowflakes look like with a magnifying glass).  I can teach him more and help him understand his world better by starting with what he experiences every day...the things in our backyard, our local area.  It would be a failure on my part if I didn't help my son learn about where he lives.
There are different types of palm trees all over Florida, including our yard.  When we go on walks we see even more.  We can do all kinds of investigating with these palms; measure their lengths, compare shades of color, and feel their different textures.  If we lived in Wisconsin I could only show him pictures of them.  What is more relevant to a young child living in the northern part of the states, a palm tree or an evergreen?  Recently, we've been studying the nuts and seeds that fall from the trees in our yard, ones from a palm in particular.  We can see the various stages they go through by looking at the variety on the ground.  
We can open them up to see what they look like inside.  Would you be able to tell which colored nut is sticky, and which was harder to open by looking at the picture?  They even have a faint smell to them.
Aidan can tell me so many things about the lizards living around us because of his experiences with them.  He knows they are difficult to catch because he knows how quick they are, and he has learned that he's more likely to catch one when it's colder outside.  He understands why they are always lying very still in the sun.  He knows what their skin feels like, and how gentle you must hold them so you don't hurt them or break off their tail.  He has learned what their throat flap is called (it's a "dewlap" in case you were interested), and why they show it.  He remembers how to tell which ones are male and which are female.  I know he wouldn't retain nearly as much of this information if we lived where there are no lizards.      
I'm not saying it isn't important to teach children about other regions, creatures, and cultures, nor am I saying you shouldn't.  What I am saying is that Benjamin Franklin was right on when he said, "Tell me and I forget.  Teach me and I remember.  Involve me and I learn."  I encourage you to start with what you have available to you, whether it's the beach, or the desert, or a park, or your own backyard.  And when the day comes that dinosaurs do become a topic of interest, think about what you will do to make the experience as real as you can, because you won't find dinosaurs in your backyard.

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  1. I agree! Experiences are so important. Thanks for sharing at the Sunday Showcase. :)I pinned this to our feature board.

    1. Fantastic! This topic is important to me so I'm grateful that you're sharing :)

  2. Thanks for this post & for adding it to the outdoor play link up this week. You are so right, why do we waste so much time trying to teach children lots of things they will never experience first hand instead of concentrating on what is real for them right now. Kierna

  3. I love this post for so many reasons. If I were to pick just one reason, I'd say how that unless kids connect with nature right in their own backyard (and by that I mean neighborhood, too), they won't have much appreciation for things beyond. And their own backyard is what they'll remember as they move forward in this world.


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