Every moment can be a learning and mind expansion moment if parents and educators put their minds to it. The childs direct and indirect environment can be used as a learning platform. Here are some examples of using the environment as a learning tool:
If your child is a pre-schooler and you are taking him to a supermarket, you have so many learning opportunities to engage him with! If you both cut out, copy or print different labels of things you want to buy, you can then let him explore the supermarket, identify them and place them in the trolley. A super pre-reading activity.
If you ask him to count some of the purchased items, you have a math activity and if you ask him to sort the fresh goods and the canned goods or the fruits and vegetables you have a great classification (science) activity.
If you want your primary school child to become more mindful of how he is being marketed to, ask him to count advertisements during a pre-assigned show. The task is to count and observe the advertisements. Most children will only count the ‘obvious’ advertisements that are interspersed between the show segments. Then you read out an article on ‘product placement advertising’. Then ask them to watch the show again and become mindful of the placement of advertisements.
The number of branded cars, phones, computers and shoes makes children aware of how much brainwashing or brain-influencing takes place in the world.
If your child is a teenager, the best example right now is following the US presidential election. It’s being followed worldwide and is forming a part of almost every dinner conversation.
Children from all countries are curious about the elections. The advantage of using them as a learning moment is immense. For a start, it gives a child a context of why history is important. How all man’s decisions and actions of the past give rise to the present and how our decisions and actions in the present will give rise to what the future man will experience.
History as a subject can move away from a memorization of dates, names and events and move towards the study of the subject as a prerequisite for understanding politics, social structure and cultures.
Things that can be done to expand your child’s understanding:
1. Understanding Democracy. There are many videos available online including Khan Academy’s ‘Sal teaches Grover about the electoral college’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-n_YOtUnqU. This is followed by videos on ‘The Democrats’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=757&v=XVWiAArXYpE and ‘The Republicans’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T7PxQMLTt8. The first video includes an understanding of a ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ democracy.
2. What do the Republicans stand for? The Democrats? Explore which one your child has most alignment with and why.
3. Looking at the funding of the elections and the impact this may have on policies that ‘favour’ the funding corporations. Discuss who then really runs the country or who has the most impact on the way the country is run.
4. Play a game of ‘What if’? And explore ways in which the present may be different in light of this — What if weapons of mass destruction were found? What if Al Gore had won? What if Pakistan and India were still one?
5. Who are the two candidates for the presidency? What are the positives and negative traits your child can list for each? If your child were to vote which way would he vote and why?
6. Are there any views your child has on some of the larger debates from the current election? Abortion? Gun laws? Immigration laws?
7.Now ask your child to write one page of a ‘future’ history chapter five years from today. One page that has Clinton as President and one that has Trump as President.
8.Explore the media’s role during the elections. Which channels, publications seem biased? How and why? Which ones seem more objective? How is the election being used as ‘entertainment’? Explore some of the humour and jokes arising from the election.
Using the environment and current experience as a learning and teaching tool develops a love of learning in young minds and opens up the beauty and wonder of science, math and history.
(Lina Ashar is the founder of a chain of Kangaroo Kids Pre-schools and Billabong High International Schools across 29 different cities in India, as well as in the Maldives, Qatar and Dubai. The views expressed are personal. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)