Learning opportunities are around every corner

May 14, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

The question sounded like the lead-in to a bad punchline.

“What do you call it when a starfish loses its leg and it grows back?” asked our 17-year-old, who was sitting in the back seat of the car with her two siblings. We had taken a wrong turn that would get us to our destination 20 minutes later than we wanted, and her question seemed an attempt to lighten the mood.

“Magic,” said our oldest.

“No, it’s re-… re-something,” said the 10-year-old, a determined look on his face as he searched his memory. “Regeneration!”

His sisters were surprised by his accurate answer.

“How did you know that?” one asked.

“I learned it from Minecraft,” he said. “See, gaming teaches you stuff. Everyone says videogames are a waste of time, but I learned about regeneration. I learned about it from Pokemon, too.” He was proud to play a part in correcting misperceptions swirling in the world about the value of videogames.

It reminded me that learning opportunities can come in the most unexpected ways and that children can learn and retain information when they are doing something they enjoy.

Take singing, for example. Our boy loves music, so it was no surprise that he decided to entertain us at dinner with an original song based on a topic he was learning about in school: the digestive system. His lyrics traced the path food takes through the body. Singing about it was a fun (though not particularly appetizing) way for him to share information – and ultimately will help him retain what he’s learned.

Tapping into our children’s interests is a natural way to foster a love of learning. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Make a math problem out of everyday activities.

Baseball offers plenty of opportunities for creating word problems. Talk about shapes at a baseball field. The infield is a diamond – or a rhombus. And a rhombus is a parallelogram, a shape with four equal sides. What kind of angles does a diamond have? Two obtuse and two acute. Who knew geometry could be so much fun?

Baseball also provides material to create your own math problems. Whether it’s a simple multiplication problem such as how many outs there are in a game, or something more complex about batting averages, using a subject matter a child loves makes math more appealing. Check out this site for some more ideas for math adventures.

Cooking is the perfect outlet for talking about fractions, or figuring out how many tablespoons are in a quarter-cup. Do division by splitting a batch of cookies into x number of equal piles. For ideas on cooking math, visit Math Central’s Cooking with Math.

Take an animal adventure.

Explore U.S. geography by learning about animals that are unique to different parts of the country. Visit the local library or go online to do research. Pick a state and search for animals found in your chosen state. For example, the nine-banded armadillo is the only species of armadillo in the U.S. and is the official state mascot of Texas. According to National Geographic, the word armadillo is Spanish, and means “little armored one,” referring to the bony plates that cover the back, head, legs, and tail this mammal. Learn more about this at National Geographic or the Texas State Historical Association.

Tapping into your children’s natural interests can foster a love of learning. Find something they love and the lessons will follow. After all, learning opportunities are available at every corner – even if you take a wrong turn.

Karen Nerney has been a communications specialist with the Capital Region BOCES Communications Service since 2011. She is mom to two daughters, 19 and 17, who find it amusing that their 10-year-old brother has found a way to justify his interest in frequent gaming.

Copyright ©2015 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission

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