“I notice. I wonder.”
Nature journaling—training to think like a scientist.
It works like this: The child is assigned the challenge to head out with notebook in-hand to discover Interesting Things. To record in their notebook of rustic adventures three ways of observing All-the-Things: by drawing, with words, and with numbers.
On this day, the child notices that oaks tend to hang on to their crinkly, brown leaves, while most of the other trees have let their leaves go.
The child notices. Naturally, the child wonders. Well, why?
Later at home, after curiosity-driven research, the child understands that his personal discovery has a name. Marcescence. The keeping of dead leaves throughout the winter.
The child can barely pronounce the term correctly. The child may not remember the term for his discovery unless he says “ah, yes, that !” while leafing through his journal later and spying his scrawled word “marcescence” added to that particular entry.
Perhaps he’ll remember that the name for what he discovered began with an “m.” Maybe he’ll simply retain that there is a name for his observation. The retention of the actual term is immaterial at this point in the education of the child.
Had marcescence been introduced to the child through a textbook, pounded and quizzed into his short-term memory (is it time yet to cram for the system’s standardized tests, anyone?), the light of his wonder would have snuffed out. Dead, before the spark could jump into flame.
The gold is that the child discovered for himself. His observation was not a coincidence and it has a name.
His learning is personal; he will never forget this tasty tidbit about his world because he searched it out himself.
Marcescence—whether he can pronounce it correctly or even remember the term—is now part of him.
The understanding of it belongs to him—forever.