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Why Change is a Process and not an Event

Watching the process of change is fascinating but what is felt during the activity holds the most potential for further learning.

Written by: Educational Advisor - Joanne Harris  

A rite of passage for many early learners is the opportunity to explore the concept of change through simple experiments. Much of children’s learning is made up of their own investigation - but when there are planned teachable moments children can participate by witnessing simple processes that provide some explanations of why and how natural phenomena occur.

Put simply, it can be difficult to offer explanations of things that we as adults may not completely understand ourselves or have not revisited since initially learning during our own educational experiences and to appease the appetites of hungry learners. Being mindful to encourage children to actively participate in their learning is essential to building their dispositions and creating habits of mind that include inquiry, observation, and experimenters. 

Change is a Process, not an Event

It might seem that change happens quickly, but it is important to see it as a process that is always unfolding. When you consider a geological event such as a volcano erupting, what we see as humans is the hot, bubbling lava travelling down the face and smoke spewing from the top. However, it takes time to create the unique conditions required before it bursts open which is quietly simmering and invisible to the naked eye.

For young children trying new foods can be challenging, but when they are involved in the process of following a recipe it can change their perception in a positive way. The experience of preparing food from raw to cooked or vice versa tracks the procedures used that cause changes in chemical reactions. When children can join in these processes it increases their understanding and appreciation of food and other substances, whilst adding to their learning.

Embracing the Mysteries of Life by Studying Change

An essential driver of curiosity is linked with the mystery and mystical elements of life. It is when our attention is focused on change that time is dedicated to gaining a greater understanding of what and how things happen, and how it affects all our lives. For children, this is almost an automatic response that underpins many of their interests and associated questions.

Whether time is allocated each day or week to focus on the study change, or it is the spontaneous moments that spark conversations, there are opportunities to take time to reflect and adapt to present-time responses.

Using Experiments as a Tool for Understanding

Planning to share aspects of change with children through intentional program choices can be the catalyst for further learning, but these can still present challenges to navigate. Verbal explanations can be limiting, or too complicated to the point that children may lose interest in the original concept they had shown interest in.

By providing context to learning children can become more discerning about their intentional learning outcomes. Exploring specific questions matched with developmentally appropriate experiences increases the likelihood of meeting their expectations. Observing carefully controlled experiments can leave a lasting impression that does not rely on children knowing all that could be learned through one experience.

Transformation is an Ongoing Process that tends to Appear as Ordinary

It is not until we witness the finer details of transformation taking place that we can fully appreciate when something has changed and why. If you are considering looking at a fruit orchard during harvest season there is an abundance of beautiful fresh produce waiting to be picked that looks ripe and appealing. However, if you were to see the same orchard where the seeds are being planted it would look less tempting and quite ordinary and bland.

There is an ancient proverb that states: ‘The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit’. Observing the outcome of change from when the seed is planted to when the fruit blooms does take time, but the real miracle is when we consider that the metamorphosis happens right before our eyes.

This thinking is as important when we consciously share our enthusiasm and excitement with children. Taking time to focus on regular and natural changes that occur continuously in the world around us, we invite them to become aware of change and its impact on people, places, and things.

How the Adult’s Appreciation of Change Can Affect Children

It is crucial for children to witness educators and other adults experiencing the awe and wonder of life by exploring abstract concepts that can not only be explained by science but made further tangible by identifying the response of emotions that can be generated too.

Our influence cannot be underestimated as it can greatly impact the way children learn and understand, and the relationships and attitudes that are formed in relation to care and empathy towards others. Creating a safe environment in which children can be supported to continue their learning independently and continue to observe outside of the group and adult intervention.

Taking the time to study daily miracles has a deep impact on children’s attitudes toward learning and contributing to the health of the planet.

Giving children an explanation of why things happen as they do is one part of a more complex chain of events that creates meaning. Watching the process of change is fascinating in that it is not only in what is seen but what is felt during the activity that holds the potential for further learning. The excitement and interest it can spark within young learners can instill the promise of children treasuring the power and beauty of transformation. 

Whether cooking a meal with freshly harvested produce, laughing at the ticklish feeling of ice cream melting down your arm, or the rush of diving into the puddles formed after a heavy downpour of rain, each experience is an example of the transformation from one element to another.

There is unlimited potential for young children to witness change organically and form their own opinions and theories as to how and why they happen. Children’s explanations remind us to remember our early impressions of the world and the importance of asking questions and seeking information.

For more ideas and inspiration on highlighting the magic of change please visit our Educator Resources page.

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