by Antonia Herberg and Hanna Vock
Children explore their environment by trying out, observing, making changes, observing again and drawing conclusions. This is how learning happens.
And the better and more suitable the conditions are that the child finds and that are created for it by sensible adults, the further it will progress. This is a great responsibility of parents, kindergarten teachers and school teachers.
However, a researcher needs some qualities to a degree that is not available to everyone.
Manuel (5;3) shows these qualities – and who knows, maybe he really wants to use them for a researching profession later on? Or maybe he will take completely different paths, but it is interesting to see how he acts as a five-year-old. Below are some observations from his kindergarten routine, presented by his kindergarten teacher.
The notes are an excerpt from the article From Clown to Expert, which is mainly about Manuel becoming more confident and developing better contact with the other children in the group.
Play with candles
In the last few days Manuel (5;3) has repeatedly taken the (Montessori) offer >lighting a candle< during free play. His attention was clearly focused on the moment when he put out the candle with the wick extinguisher. He did this very slowly each time and let the candle flare up again and again.
To give him a new opportunity to observe the extinguishing of the candle, I provided a candle, matches and a glass for him.
When he gets the candle again the next morning, I ask him if I may show him something else with the candle. Manuel looks at me attentively and agrees. I demonstrate the procedure to him once, Manuel laughs and repeats it several times. He puts his head on the table top and watches the candle go out.
I ask him if he knows why the candle goes out under the glass. He replies: „There’s no air left.“ I offer him a bigger glass. He takes it and says, „It gives her more air.“ Manuel tries it out. When I offer him a second candle, he lights both of them and puts the glasses over them at the same time with both hands and watches curiously what happens.
He asks if I have a very small glass. He extends his observation to five glasses of different sizes, sets them up in an line and one after the other he puts the glasses over the candles with rapid and coordinated movements.
After several passes he beams at me and says: „This is such fun, I’m going to use up all the matches.“
At the end of the free play I ask Manuel to show the other children in the chair circle what he has done and explain it to them. He thinks, smiles and nods.
Everyone sits in a circle, Manuel sits next to me and in front of him stands the tray with the candles, glasses and matches. The children are waiting. I ask Manuel quietly if he can tell them now what he is going to do. Manuel shakes his head, leans over to me and whispers: „You!“
I say a few sentences to the children and Manuel starts lighting the candles. Before he puts the glasses on, he looks seriously and says: „This has to be done in a hurry.“ His performance succeeds. He explains that fire needs air to burn, that there is different amounts of air in the glasses and that the candles go out one after the other. The children are attentive, listen and watch.
Manuel repeats the game with candles and glasses. He acts independently and very concentrated and makes several passes. His attention is obviously focused on putting the glasses over the candles at a fast pace in order to achieve synchrony at the start. (He has set this task for himself.) Sometimes a candle goes out. Then Manuel says „Shit!“ and starts again from the beginning.
Manuel gets the offer to grind different raw materials with a mortar. He is concentrated and works on it for over two hours. He keeps looking closely at what is happening, what is changing in the mortar. In the circle of chairs he presents his work confidently and safely.
Manuel is still interested in the mortar. Every day, something different is pounded. He presents the results again in the chair circle and finds companions who share this passion with him.
On the table are white marguerites in a vase. I ask Manuel, „Do you think marguerites drink the water?“
He nods and says, „Yes, all plants need water.“ I go on asking if you can see that they’re drinking it. Manuel ponders for a moment and says, „Yes, with a magnifying glass.“ I give him a magnifier and he looks intently at the stems through the magnifying glass. After a while, I ask him if he has observed anything. He shakes his head and says, „I don’t see anything.“
I point out to him that the water in the vase is transparent, that it has no colour, and suggest that he colour it, then the flowers would have to drink coloured water. He looks at me and asks, „What happens then?“ I ask back, „What do you think might happen?“ He touches a blossom and says, „Will it turn colour?“ I ask him to try it and give him a stand with test tubes and red and black ink.
Manuel carefully fills the ink and puts two marguerites in red and black ink. Then he sits in front of them, crosses his arms and looks at the flowers. After ten (!) minutes he comes to me and says with a plaintive tone: „Nothing’s happening.“
We put the stand with the flowers on the windowsill and I invite him to do something else now and to have a look in between.
At the beginning of the circle of chairs I ask Manuel to explain to the children what he did with the flowers. He laughs and says, „Yes, I want to do that.“ Manuel tells the children with a lot of facial expressions and a loud voice about his experiment and that he is now waiting to see if anything has happened. The children listen even more attentively than at his first demonstration. Manuel speaks freely and doesn’t even pay attention to me anymore.
When about half the time in the circle of chairs is already over he jumps up and shouts: „There, it starts! One flower is already turning pink.“ Manuel is beaming and all the children look at the pink flower. When he leaves, he says, „Black takes longer.“
Manuel comes in the morning and says: „I have to check my leaf. I’m very curious.“ A few days ago he brought a big leaf from his trip to the kindergarten and put it in the flower press.
The leaf is not dry yet. He looks at it and feels it and says, „Do you think it’s ready?“ When I say no, he says: „Then it must go back in“ and clamps it again.
After a superficial look at the notes, one might think: Manuel does nothing else than many other children in the kindergarten do. The difference is how he does it.
A closer look reveals: Manuel’s observations over a short period of time have shown him to be a really good researcher:
- Exploratory urge
- Desire to gain knowledge
- Follow up on questions you have thought up yourself
- Consistent interest across all days
- Perseverance in his plans
- Ability to communicate his research paths and results to the other children
Hopefully, he’ll continue to find good mentors who will
help him to maintain his motivation, to ask him good questions
and who support him in this,
to see success in his work and to further develop his researcher mentality.
More about Manuel:
Manuel, 5;0 Years
Date of publication: May 2020
Copyright © Hanna Vock and Antonia Herberg, see Imprint