What Physics Classes Can Learn from Preschoolers

When I started a blended learning pilot three weeks ago, I had a model for how things could be. The model comes from my daughter’s Montessori preschool. I have observed her classroom on several occasions during “job time.” The room is open with a few movable tables and chairs. Manipulatives, writing task kits, number task kits, and art toolboxes are stacked on shelves at the perimeter of the classroom where the students aged two to five can reach them.

When job time begins, most of the students get right to work. They find a job that interests them, pull it from the shelf along with a small rug, locate a place — usually on the floor — to carry out their task, spread out their small rug like a picnic blanket and immerse themselves in their work. When their job is done, they clean it up entirely by themselves, roll up their rug, and place all the materials back on the shelf exactly where they came from. If there is time left in the 45-minute work session, they will start another job right away.

There are certainly children that struggle with getting started and all of the children need help throughout their work. The teacher circulates among them, often anticipating their trouble spots, offering assistance as needed. She gently encourages reticent workers to find something to do, sometimes more firmly than others. Eventually, everyone finds a job, and there are several times during the work period when the only sounds are those blocks gently clanking, accompanied by the children singing to themselves as they work.

This is what I want in my high school physics classroom. I’m not there yet.

Read more at the New Media Consortium..

About Jack West

Consultant, writer, analyst, teacher, coach, maker.

3 Responses

  1. newtons.third.619

    Have you tried the tutorials from the physics education group at University of Washington? Granted, you will need to help some with the set up, but it is physics by inquiry. It is just a matter of having the materials out and ready, at least for those times that you are using it. However, having different students working on different topics would be difficult. The question then becomes, will your students reliably come in and begin an investigation. If they can, it is just a matter of having the materials ready for use. Your role is then to ask questions, sometimes leading, but letting the student discover the physics for themselves, and more importantly discover their own misconceptions and correct themselves.

  2. […] few good action research studies that will clue us in to the answer. I have already written about my pilot with blended learning this past spring. The tremendous success I experienced has led me on a psychotic path to create a […]

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