One small step

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

It is no secret that I love having time with young children. Their development constantly amazes me. They are curious learners on a quest to find out as much as they can about the world and how it works. They are scientific researchers making observations, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions; always with a plan for the next step if the results aren’t what was expected.

How many times do they need to release a spoon to be confident that it will always be pulled towards the floor? How early do they laugh when something doesn’t perform as expected; for example, when a balloon floats up instead of falling down?

Many of a young child’s explorations seek answers to questions they ask of themselves; questions that may never be verbalised.

childrens-questions

After they have investigated their immediate environment, and their language begins to develop, they start to look at the wider world, and begin to ask questions about how things work and why things happen.

Here are a couple my granddaughter asked me recently:

“Norah, you know about gravity? Why do clouds stay up in the air? Why don’t they fall down?”

“If babies grow into adults, and adults give birth to babies. Which came first the baby or the mother?”

questions-children-ask

The determination and persistence of young children is also almost limitless. Watch them learning to roll, or to sit, or to stand. It is never achieved on the first attempt, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up. They try and try again until they do it. The look of satisfaction on their faces is priceless. No stickers are required. Sometimes, when the result differs from expectation, the look is of surprise. But even then they are quickly deciding what to do next.

Without formal instruction of any kind, in their first few years, children perform amazing feats. Without the imposition of test requirements or standardised assessment, children are driven to learn. Intrinsic rewards, accompanied by the encouragement of significant others, for example, parents, are sufficient.  Children are driven by a “yet” mindset and a belief that there is no such thing as “can’t”. This ensures they continue to practice until they succeed. Immediately they succeed, they set themselves another challenge. That is, unless they are taught otherwise.

When they are nurtured in an environment that is encouraging and supportive, with a balance of comfort and challenge, and well-timed feedback, children will thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally. They will learn through their observations and interactions with people and objects. Each question answered will stimulate the next.

These are just a few of the remarkable achievements made by children before setting foot inside any formal education establishment. They learn to

  • interact
  • roll over
  • sit up
  • crawl
  • clap hands
  • stand
  • walk
  • place things inside, and take things out of, other objects
  • feed oneself
  • talk
  • run
  • undo and do up buttons
  • push buttons (of all sorts)
  • open doors
  • play games

Given an encouraging, supportive environment with caring adults who respond to their needs, surround them with language, love them, and model behaviour, children learn amazing things.

This week at The Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. My response is a tribute to the amazing feats performed by little ones every day.

One small step

Everything she had ever done was preparation for this moment. All eyes were on her. The audience’s expectation was palpable, bolstering her determination. She pulled herself up to full height and looked around, smiling. The audience waited. She checked the positioning of her feet, and her balance. She held up one hand, signifying that an attempt was imminent. She put one foot forward; then raised the other hand as she brought her back foot alongside the first. She paused, poised, momentarily. Immediately cameras clicked and cheers erupted. After two more steps, she launched, triumphant, into her father’s waiting arms.

Here are photos of my two little (now big) ones. While not of their first steps, these photos were taken within the first month each of them walked.

 

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

bec-walking

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

21 thoughts on “One small step

  1. Bec Colvin

    A lovely FF as always! It makes me think of us watching the little ones’ first steps so eagerly. Cute photos, though I look like a bit of a mutant! When I was with Elise recently, talking about how ‘slowly’ humans develop compared to animals, we were talking about how all that energy goes into the brain. It is amazing how much children learn all the time.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sarah. I do try to maintain my focus on childhood and education. Sometimes it can be a bit of stretch though. Our little ones grow up too soon, don’t they. But every stage is a joy, just too short!

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  2. Pingback: Wow: Amazing Feats « Carrot Ranch Communications

  3. jeanne229

    So very sweet and so very true. What an inventive use of the prompt, but then coming from you such a natural one. Loved the way you set up the flash. My children are in their 20s now but seems like yesterday I was clapping over their small triumphs. But as you seem to say here, “small” is relative. All the actions you noted are real feats indeed for an infant. Thanks Norah. You put a smile on my face. I think I need to be around children more.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your lovely, supportive comment, Jeanne. I’m pleased the post put a smile on your face. I enjoyed writing it. I am always filled with wonder of young children and their achievements.

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  4. Charli Mills

    What a wonderful flash that reads like an expectant moment at the Olympics. I love how you slowed down time with each detail from performer to audience. Very clever! Big feats come from little feat and I enjoyed both your thoughtful post on how early learners buzz with wonder and your photo collages of questions sought. A great feat all together!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Charli. I really appreciate your words of encouragement. I’m pleased the flash worked. I was trying to write it like an Olympic moment, which it is for each individual, of course! 🙂

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  5. Annecdotist

    Oh, Norah, when I saw Charli’s prompt, I really looked forward to seeing what you’d make of it. Even though I expected you to write about the amazing feat of young children’s learning, I’m still surprised, impressed and moved by what you’ve done with it. Your flash is excellent – even with the context of the rest of the post it works beautifully, conveying the mutual excitement and pride in the amazing movement of the baby’s feet. I imagine it will seem even stronger in the collection for readers coming to it fresh not quite knowing who and how old “she” is.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne, for your lovely supportive comment. I don’t know whether to be pleased or disappointed that I am so predictable. 🙂 It wasn’t really about my little one in particular, but about little ones in general. I don’t think we had the camera out for mine. Cameras weren’t always as accessible as they are now! But people may be surprised to know how old she is. And he’s a good bit older! 🙂

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      1. Annecdotist

        You’re actually fine balance between predictable and unpredictable – it’s good to come to your posts with a vague idea of what to expect, but there rather usually surprises within that, so it’s very satisfying.
        I didn’t read it as if you were writing about your own daughter, but it came across to me as you intended, is about babies in general – my comment about the not quite knowing who and how old was again meant in general, as Charli intimates, it could easily be a gymnast in the Olympics.

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        1. Norah Post author

          You are very kind, Anne. Thank you. Once again we have highlighted the different understandings that readers (including writers) can take from a piece of text.I think that was the basis of one of our earliest discussions. At least we’re consistent. 🙂

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  6. thecontentedcrafter

    Don’t we all go ever so slightly gooey with the memory of our babes first steps 🙂 Seeing your photos reminded me of mine and I know we all shared the moment as if it was a personal triumph – as if we were witnessing the first ever step taken. Memorable and amazing. Life’s little miracles wrapped up in joy.

    I have a story I must share about the questions. [Don’t I always 🙂 ] I learnt to become quite adept as a teacher of young children at letting them find their own answers to those questions. I don’t think they are seeking the ‘facts’ as such, rather they are exploring the wonders they see through questions. One of the more delightful ‘own answers’ came from a six year old as we walked through the bush one day. He wanted to know why moss was growing on a tree. On closer examination he announced the moss ‘so admired the trees it was growing its own forest.’ This led to a group of intrigued six year olds peering closely at the moss and seeing that indeed it was made up of hundreds of miniature strands that resembled a tiny forest. For about twenty minutes I had a rapt group of students, self teaching, exploring, sharing, comparing and evaluating. For me that was a perfect introduction to studying the natural world – now they would begin to look closely and question and wonder – two important factors in gaining living knowledge.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for your lovely comment and sharing your experiences and wisdom, Pauline. Those first steps are amazing feats for each of us. Just because (almost) everyone else takes them too, doesn’t make them any less amazing for the individaul.
      I love your story about the six-year old wonderment and wisdom. I think it is so important for children to have this time to wonder. Your little fellow just needed time, and not much of it, to supply his own thoughts. Sometimes, if they don’t make a suggestion straight away, adults can ask, “What do you think?” Often adults are too quick to jump in and supply half-understandings which only perpetuate common misunderstandings.
      When and how do you think it is appropriate to lead them to the scientific understandings? The wondering is important, but so too is the understanding.
      I love your final statement: that they “begin to look closely and question and wonder – two important factors in gaining living knowledge.” It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. Thank you.

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      1. thecontentedcrafter

        That final statement that you so liked Norah [thank you 🙂 ] encloses the first precept of science education – observe and question. [Always ask what they think, see, wonder about…..] Unless that is awoken all that is happening is the head is loaded with facts [often theories disguised as facts – and we all know we were fed ‘facts’ as kids that are now disproved] This can have such a hardening effect on a young mind and it is not what any curriculum requires. Science, like math and language, history and art, is led into from the beginning, first through an experiential observation and discussion from their point of view, from say, how and when and where the sun rises each day at age 7 to a night-time outing to observe the stars at night at age 11 and another trip to view through telescopes at age 12. All these experiences surrounded by stories from history, up to Galileo for the 12 year old, which gives science both an historical and personal aspect that mirrors their own development. This is of course a response in a nutshell, hope it makes some sense to you. Thanks for asking Norah – it made me think over first coffee! 🙂
        I’d also add [again, possibly] that education was never intended to be a fact feeding venture. Educating a child should mean we open in them a sense of wonder, interest and ability to observe and question. It should give them a sense of their place in the long history of the family, the community and the world and an appreciation for nature, for different cultures, different geography, different beliefs. All wrapped up in the humanities, language, math, science, movement, crafts AND ART!! 🙂

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Pauline. It all makes perfect sense to me. To observe, wonder, and question is very important for developing curiosity, imagination, creativity, and the ability to innovate. I agree wholeheartedly with your description of the purpose of education. You have expressed it beautifully. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

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