Thursday, October 4, 2012

We are All Born Scientists

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley suggest that young children think and learn about their surroundings just like scientists think and learn in advanced experiments.  The parallel isn't hard to see if you really think about it.  Scientists form hypotheses, test them, analyze their findings and learn from their actions as well as the actions of others. Cue child's play!

Kids approach the world and their surroundings on a learn by doing basis. The scientists at Cal state that youngsters learn using probabilistic models, engaging with the world through patterns and using those patterns to make predictions. Just like scientific experiments can, this sort of behavior can lead to drastic reformulations of different world views.

This new research adds to a growing body of evidence that early childhood education is crucial. It also supports the notion that making preschool more academic can be detrimental and shy children away from STEM right out of the gates. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology and philosophy at Cal and the lead author of the new study, says the children, especially of preschool age, shouldn't necessarily participate in strict lessons and take home flash cards. Instead, she thinks they should be encouraged to examine cause and effect by playing with things and seeing how they work.

Gopnik's research was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and published in Science last Friday.

To read more about the study and what Gopnik had to say about it, check out Rebecca Boyle's article.