Friday, December 28, 2012

The "Art" of Conversing with Children

Many consider holding conversations to be a primary teaching technique of early childhood educators. Everyone, however, can practice techniques to carry on meaningful and facilitative conversations with young children that foster language development during play. Facilitating language and higher order thinking skills can be intentionally and explicitly implemented in an implicit way during play. 

Research shows that teachers and caregivers tend to display “verbal domination” in their conversations with young ones.  Many tend to limit conversation to giving direction and instructing on a concept.  The discussion, then, is not a discussion at all—it tends to be linear (one-way questions, one-way response) rather than reciprocal (open-ended questions with two- or three-way responses between adult and child; Dickinson et al, 2004).

Caregivers and teachers can assess their verbal interactions with children by:
            -Using open-ended questions—the more the better!
            -Describing the child’s actions as they play—adjective 
            -Repeating what the child says and add a little more 
             information—build on discussion the child initiates! 
            -Commenting on an object and describe its function, 
             size, shape or other meaningful attribute.

Be sure to reflect not only on the quantity, but also on the quality of conversation!

This blog adapted from Promoting Oral Language Development, Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This blog post is also published Positively Napervillea printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month. 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Using BIG words with Preschoolers

Sagacious, sophisticated and sedulous may not seem like words that one would use in everyday conversation with a preschooler; however, research indicates that parents and caregivers who talk with children using unusual words provide exposure to new words and new concepts that can be built upon for years to come!  Molly F. Collins, EdD, co-author of So Much More Than the ABCs, shares that preschoolers who hear rich explanations of sophisticated words learn significantly more words than children who do not.

Interactive storytelling at DCM
The benefits of conversations using sophisticated vocabulary are noted in a recent publication of the Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).  In the article “The Importance of Discussing 50-Cent Words with Preschoolers,” Collins (2012) states that discussing sophisticated words:

-Exposes children to new words and new concepts
-Clarifies differences in meaning between new 
 words and known concepts
-Deepens meaning of partially known words
-Repairs initial misunderstandings of new words
-Primes children to value words and increase their knowledge about word meaning

In addition, Collins (2005) offers information on intentionally talking about words and what they mean:
  1. Don’t be afraid to introduce children to interesting “big” words related to literacy, math, science, past and future events.
  2. Point to illustrations or objects to help children understand.
  3. Provide brief definitions.
  4. Use synonyms, “It’s like a…”
  5. Use gestures.
  6. Use the word in different sentences at different times and in different contexts.
Look for more on promoting oral language development next week.

Collins, M.F. (2012). Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, “The Importance of Discussing 50-Cent Words with Preschoolers.”

Collins, M.F. (2005). Reading Research Quarterly, “ESL Preschoolers’ English
Vocabulary Acquisition from Storybook Reading.”

This blog post is also published Positively Napervillea printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Curiosity—Innovation by Another Name?

Children are born curious—about everything!  Think about how many times toddlers are heard asking, “Why?” or show in some other way that they want to know more. When infants begin to understand the concept of grasping, they are soon pulling on grandpa’s glasses or tugging on mom’s hair. As children develop, curiosity about the world around them continues to grow.

Family Math Night
Whether a child is 10 months or 10 years old, encouraging and supporting curiosity can have an impact on learning. Parents and caregivers can encourage and support curiosity by simply allowing time for children to explore what interests them. When allowed to explore their specific interests, children are able to develop their curiosity in a way that can lend to lifelong skills. Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, concludes that it is not important what serious interest a young person chooses, only that he follows something about which he is passionate and then delves deeply into that interest.

Deforming a wire
At DuPage Children's Museum, a key component of our mission is to stimulate curiosity. We do this by offering exhibits with self-directed experiences for children. Our current traveling exhibit, How People Make Things, is inspired by the factory tours seen on the popular television show Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. As Fred Rogers stated, “It’s good to be curious!”

How People Make Things visits DuPage Children's Museum through January 27, 2013.

This blog post is also published in Positively Naperville, a printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Growing Innovative Thinkers

What is innovation?  Why does being innovative matter?  How can we encourage children to be innovative thinkers?  These questions were given thoughtful consideration at DuPage Children's Museum (DCM) Innovation Summit held in Meiley-Swallow Hall on the North Central College campus early last month.    

DCM's Farming for Fuels program
Rich Faron of Museum Explorer and project manager on one of DCM’s newest exhibits, AWEsome Energy, stated that innovation is “grown from the very beginning” and that an essential part of an innovation—engendering culture is the opportunity to “try things out over and over again, incrementally moving things forward.”

Innovation matters because, as panelists at the summit stated, “It is important for children to learn that taking risks is all right.” When it comes to being innovative, taking risks for younger children might mean being encouraged to make a prediction rather than saying, “I don’t know.” For older children this may mean encouraging them to focus on their interests—even if it is out of the ordinary. 

In her blog, Play. Fight. Repeat., Dr. Suzita Cochran writes about Encouraging Innovation and Ingenuity—especially as it relates to following the interest of the child.  Dr. Cochran offers some valuable literature resources that touch on innovation, including Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future and Why Not? How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small by Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres.

At DCM, our mission speaks to innovation. We stimulate curiosity, creativity, thinking and problem-solving through:
·         Self-directed, open-ended experiences
·         Integration of the arts, science and math
·         The child-adult partnership

Come by for innovative experience today! 

Additional resources:

Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World by Tony Wagner

Friday, November 30, 2012

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Earlier this month, DuPage Children's Museum in conjunction with Choose DuPage presented "Creating a Culture of Innovation" at North Central College in downtown Naperville. This inspiring event featured keynote speaker Tom Kuczmarski, co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, and an accomplished panel of local leaders in the field of innovation. 

There was a buzz in the air both prior to the presentation and at the following reception, as local business and community leaders met and talked about all of the ideas prompted by this unique event. DuPage Children's Museum is proud to be a community partner serving not only the youngest members of our population, but their adult counterparts as well!

Along with Mr. Kuczmarski, our panelists included:
• Dan Brown, Founder & President, Loggerhead Tools, Past Chicago Innovation Awards winner
• Bob Dutzi, Vice President & General Manager, Illinois Tool Works, Past Chicago Innovation Awards winner
• Richard S. Faron, President, Museum Explorer, Inc.
• Salvatore (Sam) Immordino Jr., Program Manager, Performance Surfaces & Materials Analysis Laboratories, USG Corporate Innovation Center, Past Chicago Innovation Awards winner
• Brian Krause, Vice President of Global Marketing &Communications, Molex, Past Chicago Innovation Awards winner
• Maria Wynne, CEO, Girl Scouts of Greater Chicagoland area and Northwest Indiana, Past Chicago Innovation Awards winner

Written by  T.J. Hicks, Director of Integrated Brand Marketing, DuPage Children's Museum

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What Research Shows about Counting and Number Sense

It may seem obvious that counting plays a significant role in future mathematics success.  Indeed, research confirms what parents and teachers have believed for years: it is important for children to have plenty of counting practice as part of their school readiness experiences. Jordan and colleagues (2009) examine the relationship between early number competence and mathematics achievement from kindergarten through third grade.  Examples for number competence include the ability to count, to make number comparisons and to complete calculations.  The study finds that high levels of early number competence have a positive impact on children’s mathematic achievement in later years. 

Similarly, in a three-year longitudinal study (age 5 through a mean of 8 years and 8 months), Krajewski and Schneider (2009) examine the relationship between the roles of counting and understanding quantity and mathematics achievement at the elementary level.  The authors divided understanding of numbers into two levels. Level 1 consists of basic numerical skills, or understanding number and word sequences. Level 2 consists of linking number words with quantities, including the ability to compare quantities and understand cardinality—the idea that a quantity can be represented by a number. Their findings indicate that success with level 1 topics predicts success with level 2 topics, which in turn predicts mathematics achievement in fourth grade.

Because early math competencies and understanding predict achievement in the elementary grades, bolstering preschoolers’ counting and other mathematical understandings is essential. 

Borrowed from NAEYC, Exploring Math, Spotlight on Young Children (2012).

Jordan, N.C., D. Kaplan, C. Ramineni & M.N. Locuniak. 2009. “Early Math Matters: Kindergarten Number Competence and Later Math Outcomes.” Developmental Psychology 45 (3): 850-67.

Krajewski, k. & W. Scheider. 2009. “Exploring the Impact of Phonological Awareness, Visual-Spatial Working Memory, and Preschool Quantity—Number Competencies in Mathematics Achievement in Elementary School: Findings from a 3-Year Longitudinal Study.” Journal of Experimental Psychology 103 (4): 516-31.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Scientific Method—Right here at DCM!

The scientific method is a process that scientists use to answer questions of all types. In its most basic sense, the scientific method involves observation, hypothesis/prediction, experimentation and conclusion. Scientists often adapt the use of the scientific method based upon what is being studied or how the scientist might interpret the process itself.

At DuPage Children's Museum (DCM), a myriad of scientists travel through our exhibit neighborhoods each day.  With every splash of water, turn of a handle and stroke of a brush, children are observing, predicting, experimenting, coming to conclusions and repeating the process!

Most recently, DCM invited several young chemists to our Creativity Class series on the subject. Students were introduced to chemistry as the study of matter and the changes that take place with matter. Children explored chemical reactions under the guise of the class titles—Chemistry or Not? Mix it Up!  and Pop, Fizz, Wow! 

Creativity classes run throughout the year.  Registration is taking place for our winter break camps as well.  Sign up today!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Children are Using the Scientific Method Just Like the Pros!

Though their actions look suspiciously like play, a new study performed by Alison Gopnik, author of The Scientist in the Crib and professor at the University of California at Berkley, shows that children approach problems in need of solutions in much the same manner as scientists.

By utilizing advanced research methods and mathematical models that are able to provide insight into children’s learning mechanisms, Gopnik and her colleagues learned that young children are able to naturally learn from statistics, experiments and by observing the actions of others. The results, says Gopnik’s team, are strikingly similar to how researchers use the scientific method to get to the bottom of complex questions.

For more information:

Gopnik’s homepage

LeGare,  A child's potential as a future scientist

Some information contained in this blog is borrowed from The National Science Foundation News: Babies are Born Scientists and Alan McStravick in redOrbit science.


Friday, November 2, 2012

S.T.E.A.M. Ahead: Adding Art to S.T.E.M.

In recent years there has been a great amount of focus placed on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (S.T.E.M.).  In an effort to keep pace with a global economy, educators from preschools through higher education have increased learning opportunities that place emphasis on S.T.E.M.

A concept making its way to the forefront of educational circles is S.T.E.A.M., or adding the arts to the emphasis that is currently placed on science and mathematical literacy. Research shows that the arts support crucial developmental skills in creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication (National Endowment for the Arts Longitudinal Study results, 2012).  The arts can also be a powerful way to approach math and science learning for children who don’t show great interest in S.T.E.M. concepts otherwise. 
Science, Math & Art intersect in DCM's studio programs

In the early years children can be encouraged to use dance to learn about spatial relationships and geometry. Dance is movement and a constant creation of shape not only in circles and curves, but also in straight and pointed lines in relation to bodies as they move through a space.

Science concepts, such as light and shadow, can be added to math learning and dance.  Children can be encouraged to watch how movements change the shapes and lines of their bodies as the sun shines behind them. 

To the tune of Five Fat Sausages and other           number-oriented songs; music, movement and counting have gone hand-in-hand for many years. In addition, chanting patterns like tap, clap, snap or even sorting objects as songs are sung can reinforce mathematical concepts for young children.

S.T.E.A.M. education indicates that children can be offered concepts in math and science while developing additional complimentary skills enhanced through the arts. As we begin to see these connections, we can open our eyes to S.T.E.A.M.—its presence and value in how we engage learners. 

This blog post is also published in the October 2012 edition of Positively Napervillea printed guide of community events, volunteer opportunities and local lore. The publication is distributed to 35,000 homeowners by the first of every month.