Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ex Quotient: Are you Willing to Fail?

I'm up again past 1am because my brain is making connections and the "busy brain" syndrome won't let me fall asleep.

We went to a great fair yesterday focused on TINKERING! The Maker Faire in Fort Wayne was a gathering of people who enjoy tinkering, stretching their thoughts, experimenting, thinking outside the box, and playing with ideas. Creativity abounded! See our experience here.

As is my usual routine, I came home, worked on my college classes (I teach online) for a bit, wrote a blog post, and tried to go to bed. TRIED! Have you head of Multiple Intelligences and Emotional Intelligence? I have been talking about these concepts and different types of learners this week. My children happen to be in PEP classes at their school, which is a self-contained high ability program. I grew up in numerous places with pull out talented and gifted programs, though started in the PEP program in Elkhart many moons ago. In another online class I am teaching, we are discussing high ability learners as part of exceptional education (special education to most). My students are often surprised that high ability is included in special needs. Anyway, I had MI (Multiple Intelligences), EQ (Emotional Quotient)/EI (Emotional Intelligence), and IQ (Intelligence Quotient), and Tinkering floating through my mind as I went to bed and reflected on our day and children.

BINGO! Experiment Quotient! ExQ.

While we were in a HIGHLY creative place, I noticed a couple of things about these two young men!
At the end of the fair, the 4-year-old was highly involved in experimenting with his shadow. There was a willingness and interest in this. HIGHLY!  We talk about our shadows when we're out walking, but he was almost being a contortionist to see how his shadow would grow and expand as he shrank and contracted. I saw his mind thinking, his body twisting and turning, and the return to thinking as he made sense of it all. Then he revised his movements and started again.

The almost 7-year-old was willing to try things he never had done before. He let his body experiment with awkward positions and tried to find balance. He WELDED his own metal sculpture (with a little help from a professional). He was willing to TRY! I'm so proud of these guys for experimenting, for trying. The older two did it with science fair projects this last year, too. They were all collaborating earlier this week as they made catapults out of loose parts. My husband joined in after the fact.

I went to the Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children a few years ago and was introduced to Mind in the Making. The author was one of the keynote speakers. If you joined the professional organization during the conference you received one her books. She shared a video about her studies with children. This made a big impression on me.

One of the videos stuck out, as I could see tendencies in our oldest son in this already. The premise was that if a child is praised for being smart, when more challenging activities come along, they will not have as much patience or effort in trying to master the element. However, those who were praised for their effort were more willing to experiment and usually figured out the puzzle more easily than those who were just "smart" naturally. Here is a link to the "Effect of Praise" video. I went home and made sure to change my praise that day and going forward.

How do we develop Experiment Quotient in our children? In ourselves? 
Can we model it? Right now, my husband really likes canning. Yes, canning food. I know, a little different, but applicable. It's something that is a challenge for us. It's new. We just started doing it about a year ago. Finding new foods and recipes are part of his experiment process. As an adult, I visited my parents in Florida many times and encountered the lizards that are everywhere. Of course, I had read about and seen on television that the tails fall off. I still had to see it and find it out for myself. 

What is our resiliency as we encounter new challenges or have bumps along the road of life? I recently shared this song by Tubthumping about getting up after we get knocked down with my beginning college students. You probably remember it. "I get knocked down, but I get up again." And I'm sure it's now going through your mind, like it is mine! Their success largely depends on their resiliency--can they get back up again after they get knocked down? 

Are you willing to fall? (As a side note, one boy fell yesterday at the fair--it was traumatic for him. He wanted to go home immediately. It lasted for 15-30 minutes. We pushed through. He had a great time once he recuperated from falling and the associated emotions.) Are we willing to fail? Are you willing to make mistakes? What lets us have that sense of wonder and the ability to try things out and experiment?

I think of Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus as she encourages, "Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!", 'Never say "never."', "Look for connections.", and "Not only that; we can take chances, make mistakes, get wet!" She's kind of my hero. 

Bringing this full circle and back to nature, I think about education in general. I think about environmental education. This recent article helped put that role of experimenting back in nature. I follow many nature blogs and early childhood blogs on Facebook and regularly research these topics for my professional obligations. A common theme emerges. Play is learning, play is experimenting. We need open ended experiences for our children, our schools, and ourselves. We need to be outside. Our children need to experience this world with all five senses in all seasons. It also goes back to our family theme for the year: EXPLORE. I think I found our word for 2014: Experiment! 

What is your Experiment Quotient? How can we build it? How can we foster it in children? I'm sure this is not the end of this topic! :-)

A few quotes on experimenting and playing:

Play is the highest form of research. --Albert Einstein

It is a happy talent to know how to play. --Emerson

I'm still experimenting.Stevie Wonder 
While you are experimenting, do not remain content with the surface of things.Ivan Pavlov 
As a child I was very into gadgets and machines and robots. The idea of experimenting with machines to create art was always something I tinkered with.Reggie Watts 
It's so much in me to want to keep experimenting all the time. It's just inherent. Therefore I keep reaching for instruments I don't particularly know how to play, and then I become excited. That gives me energy to want to make new things, and it forces me to hear things in new ways, which then can only help to say things in a new way.
P. J. Harvey