Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Developing Children’s Innate Dispositions at DCM

On January 22nd, Lilian Katz, Ph.D presented "Nurture Learning By Developing Children’s Innate Dispositions" as part of DCM's Just for Grown-Ups lecture series. Many thanks to those who joined us, to Door-to-Door Direct for underwriting this special event and to Tellabs for their additional support.

During this presentation, Dr. Katz shared her thoughts on providing children with intellectually stimulating “plans of learning” – those that will help children construct their own knowledge and understanding, develop essential life skills, strengthen innate dispositions and nurture positive feelings/emotions.

Impact of Dispositions on Learning
Dr. Katz defines dispositions as “habits of mind or habits of intention.” While it is assumed that children come to school with different sets of readiness skills, she states it should also be assumed that all children come to school with these intellectual dispositions. For example, all children have the innate disposition to be generous, cooperative, curious and/or creative.

Different than knowledge/understanding or skills, Dr. Katz states dispositions should be included among learning goals because “the acquisition of knowledge and skills alone does not guarantee that they will be used and applied” (Katz, 1993). To illustrate this point in her presentation, she described how a child may acquire reading skills, but if his disposition to read is damaged, he may not read again. “Dispositions cannot be learned from instruction. However, dispositions can become damaged by instruction if too early or formal,” says Dr. Katz.

Developing the Innate Dispositions That Support Learning – Curiosity, Creativity and More
According to Dr. Katz, “The younger the children are, the more important it is to strengthen their dispositions to look more closely at the events in their own environment and experience.” To strengthen these dispositions, she states it is useful to distinguish between academic and intellectual. While academic means specific bits of information, intellectual points to the process behind thinking, reasoning and understanding.

Dr. Katz states that intellectual dispositions include the disposition to analyze, theorize, be curious, be creative. To strengthen these dispositions, she suggests asking open-ended, thought-provoking questions, such as What do you want to find out? or What makes you think so? Dr. Katz also suggests adults model these dispositions for children. She states, “Many dispositions are learned from being around people who have observed dispositions and who make their dispositions observable.”

Developing Innate Intellectual Dispositions at DCM
During the presentation, Dr. Katz mentioned how DCM creates opportunities for parents and educators to strengthen children’s intellectual dispositions. As you explore DCM’s open-ended exhibits and activities, nurture learning by developing children’s innate intellectual dispositions by doing the following:

· Assume all children have innate intellectual dispositions (creativity, curiosity, etc.). Ask yourself what knowledge, skills and dispositions you want your child to have.
· Ask your child thought-provoking questions, such as What do you think this is for? How do you think it does that? or What makes you think so?
· Model the dispositions you want to strengthen. For example, Dr. Katz mentioned that children who grow up around people they observe reading are more likely to respond when learning to read.
· Follow your child’s lead and allow him to make some decisions. In the Construction House, encourage your child to create his own design. If he is having a hard time deciding what to make, offer him the opportunity to draw or try using a tool he hasn’t had the chance to use before.

To hear Dr. Katz's entire presentation from this site, click the arrow below. You can hear audio directly from this site or download to listen later.

Save the Date!
Thursday, April 23, 2009 7-8:30 PM

Just for Grown Ups with:
Jennifer Rosinia Ph.D, OTR/L

Looking at Children with New Eyes:
How to Use the Sensory Processing Approach

Want more information? Click

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Embracing the Mess and the Noise: Seeing the Importance of Sensory Experiences

Does your child love to pour, fill and repeat in the WaterWays neighborhood? Does she enjoy making and listening to the rattle, shake, and hum of the instruments in the Music Room? Does he seem entranced by the colors and music of the Color My Way exhibit?

Children enjoy (and sometimes even crave) these experiences that stir the senses. And while we as adults do not always crave (or sometimes even enjoy) activities that are messy, wet, or noisy, they are foundational learning experiences.

The Sensory Stage of Learning
Sensory activities are appealing to young children because they are fun and answer the important questions-“What is this?” and “What does this do?” For example, children learn that they cannot hold a lot of water in their hands without it running through their fingertips and down their shirts. Similarly, in a
previous post, we’ve mentioned the importance of mouthing and how it furthers children's understanding of the world around them.

As children get a little older, they may have a better idea of what can be done with objects but continue to need to use their senses to help them test their theories and better answer questions like, “What happens if?” A three-year-old child might learn “If I hit this drum hard, it makes a louder noise.” A five-year-old may mix two or three paint colors together to learn what other colors he can create.

Exploring the Senses With Your Child
Here are some Play at Home and Play at the Museum activities for you and your child:

Too cold to go outside, but tempted to play in the snow? Bring the snow inside for some Play at Home fun. Scoop some snow into a large container and bring it inside to explore. Ask your child, How does the snow feel? (Wet, cold, squishy, soft?) If your child prefers, let him play with the snow while wearing his mittens inside. Don’t forget to save some snow in the freezer to bring out for some summer fun!
Using rich vocabulary encourages children to think and talk about the experience.

At DCM, the Creativity Connections neighborhood offers many visually stimulating play activities for children. Discover the Light Effects and Shadow Play exhibits and create a light spiral inside the Light Painting Room and your own shadow art in Shadow Lab.
Though shadow and light are not objects that can be picked up or handled, these experiences provide opportunities for investigation and exploration of how light and shadows move, bend, bounce and change in our physical world.

Make your own batch of smelly play dough. Mix
your favorite recipe with any flavor of drink mix (Kool-Aid, Wyler’s, etc.) or cocoa powder to create something scented for your child to sculpt and squish. Not only is smell another way for children to investigate their world, but pounding, squishing and feeling play dough are also appropriate outlets for emotional release.

Join us at DCM for our Creativity Program, “Makin’ Munchies,” and explore new foods and recipes. During this program, you and your child can create your own healthful treat to try. Watch your child’s reaction to the new food (facial expression or movements). Don’t forget to ask your child, How does it taste?
Cooking experiences give children the opportunity to explore their world using all of their senses.

Inside the Music Room at DCM, children of every age can play and listen to the many sounds created by the xylophones, whale drums and wrenchophone. Using strikers provided, encourage your child to show you what sounds she likes best. You might ask her, Do you like to make loud noises or soft noises?
As children begin to play and listen to music, they learn to respond in creative and meaningful ways.

Want More?
In a future post, we will continue this discussion on the benefits of providing experiences that integrate all the senses and share how every experience is a sensory experience at DCM.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Make 2009 Your Family's Year to Play!

Looking for a New Year's resolution?
According to an article on, Temple University psychologist and past DCM Just for Grown Ups speaker, Dr. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek recently met with parents and psychology and early education experts to discuss the importance of play to innovation and creative thinking. Pasek and others believe that American children will be at a disadvantage in the global economy because of lack of opportunity to play. "Lack of play in early childhood education could be the next global warming...Play equals learning," Pasek stated. "For too long we have divorced the two."

Make a Promise to Play!
One New Year's resolution that will benefit everyone in your family is making a promise to play. Play can happen most anywhere! "Families that play together, build brains together," stated past Just for Grown Ups speaker Jane Healy, Ph.D.

At DCM, we witness children learning through play each and everyday--whether by observing, exploring, creating or wondering. Start your year with a visit to DCM and enjoy a day of play with your family. Looking for at-home play ideas? Check out these past DCM blog posts: Nurturing Children's Curiosity and Wonder in Creativity Connections and Playing IS Learning: WaterWays - Bubbles. DCM also offers free parent resources available in our Family Resource Center and throughout the museum filled with ideas for Play at Home!

Looking for more reasons to play?
Check out our new (and free) Just for Grown Ups resource, Ten Reasons to Make Time for Play. This resource is based on information from experts (including the American Academy of Pediatrics) and recent research supporting the importance of play to a child's overall development and achievement. Additionally, a previous post stated that Jane Healy, Ph.D (DCM's November Just for Grown Ups speaker) also stressed the improtance of "brain building play" and how open-ended, 3-dimensional play experiences promote brain growth.

More Time to Play at DCM
DCM is excited to provide families with more time to play at the museum! Starting January 9th, 2009 join us for Family Fun Friday Nights and enjoy playing together until 8 p.m.

Don't forget!
Register now for our January Just for Grown Ups event with Lilian Katz, Ph.D on January 22, 2009. More information is available on the DCM website or in the following post: January JFGU Event with Lilian Katz, Ph.D