The world is such a fascinating place, filled with interesting people, exciting things to learn about, and endless possibility for exploration. Why is it then that so many kids are jaded and have not the slightest curiosity about how life works? With more data available quicker today than ever before, it appears our young might be less interested than ever.
I believe that part of the reason is that information is available to anyone with a quick Google search and thus we feel our kids have the world at their fingertips. But, I would like to suggest that information is different than knowledge. Knowing about something is different from experiencing it. Let me give you some examples:
• Few of my childhood memories are very sharp, but one stands out crystal clear after over 40 years. I can still see Tutankhamen’s death mask in the glass case of the traveling exhibit that came to Oklahoma City when I was ten. I was astounded at its beauty and have loved Egyptian history ever since.
• Reading about Christopher Columbus’ small sailing ships was one thing. Trying to stand on the rocking deck of a reproduction of the tiny Niña was drastically different. It was unimaginable how the sailors had the courage to launch into a visibly endless and unknown body of water in what felt like an oversized rowboat. We came away awed.
• Having a working knowledge of how pioneer women cooked over a fire, washed clothes, and survived in a dugout took on a new perspective in the heat of summer while standing near a cooking fire and trying to rub clothes on the scrubbing board. We had a new appreciation of the dedication and sacrifice of our ancestors.
• Gretchen Rubin, in Happier at Home, told about taking Wednesday adventures with her oldest daughter. Each week they took turns picking a different place to explore in their hometown of New York City. They discovered all kinds of places that most NY natives will never see as well as tightened their own relationship.
Field trips can, and if possible should, be common occurrences when our children are growing up. I was fortunate that my father was the prince of field trips. He would see something on television or read something in the newspaper and before many hours had passed had made contact and arranged a trip. Within a week, sometimes within hours, we were off on an adventure! It could be a traveling exhibit or an artist he’d just read about. Sometimes it was a reenactment or an interesting business. One time we saw the unveiling of a new statute that was to be hoisted in two days’ time to the top of our state capitol dome, never to be seen at close range again. Many opportunities are fleeting and must be snatched as they float by.
A good number of our excursions weren’t normal field trips to museums that were used to handling groups of people. Often, we visited individual artists or business people at their place of work. You would be surprised how easy it is to engage people’s help when they understand that someone cares about what they do and are interested in learning more. All you have do is ask. Most times, the answer will be in the affirmative. If all this causes a new interest to develop, you can follow up with appropriate books or workshop experiences.
To help kids develop an excitement for learning, it just takes one adult willing to take action and introduce them to the amazing world we live in. We can lead the way by asking good questions, introducing new adventures, sharing the children’s joy of discovery, pointing out things of interest, and feeding the flame of inquiries. Don’t miss the fun!
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