Learning through first-hand experience

Project author:

Project summary:

Observational studies dealing with the effectiveness of learning through visual material or learning through close proximity to nature.

Introduction

This project looks at two specific ways of learning in preschool children. One way of learning is through visual material, the other way is direct experience in nature. The goal of the project is to find out whether it is effective to teach children only through visual material or whether it is better to gain natural phenomena or experiences through direct contact with nature. In my opinion, this project is very important, because in today’s age of technology people become alienated from nature, they don’t go to nature as often, they prefer to look at it only through visual material. That is why it is important to show children the beauty of nature in a different way than just through visual material, because the overall immediate experience of being in nature, getting to know its laws, behaving towards nature is a much greater experience for a child that they automatically internalize than when they think about these we only talk about the experiences (teachers) and do not apply them directly. Children often tell their parents about these experiences, show them to their parents, and this also means that the family spends more time outside, in nature, and not just sitting at home. The project takes into account the individual characteristics of individual children, their fears (which the child may not even know about), but is also in line with methodological and pedagogical goals supported by professional literature.

Context

This project was implemented in a kindergarten in Liberec, in a class of 5-6/7-year-old children. The project was implemented mainly in the kindergarten classroom, in the kindergarten garden, but also in the forest and meadow near the kindergarten. I have noticed for a long time that most children do not know how to play in the garden, in the forest or in the meadow. Or they go for advice on what they should do. These are mainly children who have minimal contact with nature, spend time mainly with electronics in their hands and at home. Therefore, when looking for an ideal topic for my research, this topic was the first to come to my mind. As a nature lover who spends most of my free time outside, I find it really sad when no one gets this opportunity and guidance. In this context, I also remembered a boy who, during his daily stay outside, pulled out, kicked and in some way violated the plants. I discovered that this behavior was because he doesn’t like plants, that he doesn’t like them. This led me to the possibility of showing the boy nature in a different way than he is used to (through pictures). Motivate him to protect nature and his interest in it. Later, I discovered other children who only know nature from encyclopedias and pictures they find in books or specific cards. However, there are also children in the classroom who spend most of their time outdoors with their parents in nature, they have a tremendous overview and are often the ones who can motivate children to explore, try and learn about the events around them.

Since children infected with COVID-19 started to appear in our class, I had to adapt the activities to a smaller group of children. Out of the planned 20-25 children, only 14 children were present during the implementation of the project. Upon this realization, I also made a variant where it would not be possible to implement the project in a kindergarten in such a way that the program would be focused on a certain topic for the children of my friends who are of preschool age, or I would try to approach another kindergarten in which I used to be she completed an internship as part of her studies.

"Everything in nature - every flower, every tree and every animal can teach us much." - Eckhart Tolle

Eckhart Tolle

Findings

Before starting the research, I introduced the parents to the project that I would like to implement. I haven’t had any parents want to give me permission, but some have looked at me in a rather strange way (mainly parents who don’t like their child getting dirty). As I knew that I would be carrying out the research already in the last weeks of the school year, I had to prepare more for the activities. This is because the attention and concentration of children has decreased greatly. At the beginning of the project, I introduced the children to the theme of the whole week and what awaits us in the adventure. Most of the children were happy that our learning would take place mainly outside, playing explorers, but children who did not seem interested in nature often repeated their parents’ words that they did not want to get dirty. This always makes me quite sick, because childhood is about dirty clothes, how else can children learn about the world around them.

For the first two days, I tried one of the researched methods, namely learning through visual material. Children who do not have much experience with the immediate proximity of nature was the method that suited them according to what I could see (children who are taught by their parents not to get dirty). The other children looked at the pictures, completed the assigned tasks, but soon lost interest. In the classroom during the morning games, the children had many pictures, flashcards, encyclopedias where they could look at the life of insects (ants, bees, etc.). The second day was in the same spirit, when I noticed that despite the great motivation of the children, the interest dropped even more. During these days, they asked the most basic questions about specific insects. We spent the next three days mostly outside. I always located all the activities in a specific place, one was in the garden of the kindergarten, the second was in the forest and the third was in the meadow. The children had both picture material and magnifying glasses, papers, bowls, glasses, crayons and others at their disposal. Before starting these three days of direct experience and closeness to nature, I went to check what animals and plants live here. It was for the reason that I had the material ready, I knew enough about the fauna and flora in question so that none of the questions would surprise me.

After arriving in each environment, we discussed the rules of behavior and safety with the children and warned them of possible dangers. Afterwards, the children had the opportunity to explore the environment. Everyone could find an animal or a plant either according to the picture card (find an animal/plant according to the picture, try to name it), or they could create a glass of nature (collecting nature and animals in a glass). The children had countless activities at their disposal, which they could either carry out alone or accompanied by an adult if they needed one to play. During the research and observation, the questions asked by the children were very different from the questions they asked me. They were often interested in a deeper analysis of the body structure – for example: how exactly which part works, what happens when they lose a part, how they live, what they have to do to live in an anthill/hive too, do they also have a job like humans , why they walk behind each other and if I put my foot in their way they don’t go any further (ants), why bees sting, what’s in their stinger and the like.

By talking about natural phenomena, fauna and flora in the immediate vicinity, where the children had the opportunity to touch everything, smell it, explore it, find out the truth from what we were talking about, together with the children we were able to motivate the children who they did not show such interest in nature. They tried to learn as much as possible, spent the whole morning until lunch trying to explore the whole area, building houses for insects, helping them clean up the mess they found. When it was time to leave, I had to promise that we would go again tomorrow. In the end, until the end of the school year, I spent every day, even when it rained, outside and talked about different topics there. Another small victory was unlearning the boy to kick, tear and harm living nature. Telling stories and playing explorer got him so excited that from then on, when he sees something thrown somewhere or sees a plant growing in the middle of the sidewalk, he walks around it or throws away the mess and continues on without any problem. And since this is a boy who can already read as well, he looked up reading the insect flashcards and finding them.

Conclusion

I rate the overall research as very successful. I managed to answer the set questions and I am very convinced that if we implement all topics focused on nature or learning about the surroundings outside and we give the children the possibility of direct contact with them, these experiences will become much more rooted in them and learning is so more efficient. I have established that the possibility of learning outside, even in any weather, is very lacking in regular state kindergartens. Children are highly motivated by being in close proximity to nature to gain information about their surroundings. Being a lover of nature myself, I try to pass this on to children, I try to work with natural materials, explain the phenomena around them, I try to motivate them to protect and learn about nature, and I think I’m doing very well. Parents stop me and tell me how the children talked at home about what they experienced in kindergarten, what they saw, how they liked it and that they must visit the places they saw again with their parents. They often come to me and tell me how happy they are that my colleague and I are doing something like this, that thanks to it they have found another option with their children to see somewhere and what to do there. Because before, they looked at nature only through a book and hardly spent any time in it. The fact that the children are happy and I see that it brings them joy and experience is the biggest win for me.

Furthermore, I could focus on the involvement of parents in the possibility of spending time in nature with their children. Show them the benefits of these visits, suggest specific activities they can do with the children, etc.

Since attending these lectures, I have talked about nothing other than the fact that it is a great pity that Froebel’s pedagogy is basically an unknown concept in our country. That’s why I would like to change both the approach to my education and methods, as well as show more pedagogy, bring it closer and show what principles this pedagogy has. And both to colleagues and parents and, if possible, to other cooperating kindergartens.

Furthermore, I realized that Froebel’s principles are not only about devoting oneself to nature, but reach much deeper and into other very important areas, which he perceives very comprehensively and connects them very much. That’s why I think it’s not just about a specific area, but about understanding the connection of all areas that affect our lives. So I try to understand and show how to connect everything, how to “remove” the fears that can arise from many activities and how to explain what we intend by these methods and principles.

I wish I had the opportunity to try everything in practice. To show that this pedagogy has a wonderful mission and approaches the child with humility and above all pays attention to his needs and decisions. I would like to show what advantages this pedagogy has for the child and was able to show it in the best possible light and show that everything really makes sense.

I would like to share with others my experience and the experiences that this pedagogy gave me in the form of various meetings that we have as part of the cooperation of other kindergartens. She tried to gradually transfer Froebel’s pedagogy to work with children until it was used to a greater extent than “common” methods and approaches. I would also like to share these thoughts with parents. Initiate them into the issue in a way that they would understand and know what is intended. If parents agreed with these approaches and principles, I think that this would also be very helpful for further dissemination.

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

  1. Klára Pazderková
    Klára Pazderková
    09 Sep 2022 at 7:20 pm

    Tento projekt se mi velmi líbí. Souhlasím s tím, že pro děti je lepší si přírodu poznat svými smysly, než ji pozorovat na obrázkách. Je dobře, že děti byly poučené, jak se mají v přírodě chovat a proč to tak je. Myslím si, že je potřeba děti učit od mala vhodnému chování v přírodě, potom by tyto zkušenosti mohly pak předávat v dospělosti svým dětem.


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