Thursday, February 7, 2013

Seriously? We Needed Research to Tell Us Kids Can Think?!

Credit: SF Chronicle
Sitting in seat 15C on United on my way to Chicago I scanned the November 27, 2012 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle during takeoff (thanks for the free paper, ParkSFO). My eyes were immediately drawn to the front page story headline, “Preschoolers are Junior Scientists – Analyzing Cues, TestingHypothesis” by Stephanie M. Lee. The article highlighted recent studies and research debunking the concept that “children roughly the ages of two through seven cannot understand concrete logic or other people’s perspectives”. Huh?

Okay, full disclosure, I do not have kids, but I do have six nieces and nephews and I have been a trustee of a school — have these researchers never been around kids before?! Anyone who has spent time around a two or three year old is very familiar with their incessant “why?” questions realizes that their sole goal is to understand the perspectives of others and the reality of what is happening around them.

This article then went on to state, sit down for this, that when kids were left to figure things out themselves, this is a real shocker, they actually did!  This held true even if the item in question was a mechanical challenge. WOW! So glad we spent money on that study. They then went on to state that when the solution was shown to the kids, they just mimicked the solution versus getting creative — another mind blowing result… seriously?!

This, in a nutshell, is the problem with our K-12 education. Our educational system actually believes it is best to lead students versus creating an environment that allows children to actually learn. It is sad to me that this experiment was a surprise to researchers, discovering that children are “able to ponder their own actions, are also capable or weighing the action of others.”

Isn’t the whole scientific process based on the ability to ponder and hypothesize? That’s what kids do every day — they wonder and they rationalize possibilities. Why are we NOT nurturing this in our children? Why would we not think that the human mind has this capacity from the start?

The organization FIRST gets it. For the last four years I have participated as a sponsor of the FIRST robotics competitions as a supplier to the kit of parts as well as sponsoring local high school teams. The success of the FIRST model is so great and has so much impact they now provide competitions for children starting in Kindergarten with the Junior FIRST Lego league. Yep, the same kids these researchers felt could not understand logic or other’s perspectives.

The best part of the article for me is when they admit to how inexpensive it was to create this type of environment in the classroom… I really hope this research is a wake up call to our all our educators.


  1. I am so excited that you are a strong supporter of FIRST. As the Senior Mentor for Northern California I am continually amazed at these kids. Project based learning needs to be the educational structure for the future. Thank you for all of your support of this awesome program.

  2. Teri thanks for your comment. I am honored to be part of the FIRST program. It was great to meet you at the San Jose regionals. Your love of FIRST is very evident.