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In the grand scheme of things there are two big categories when it comes to learning; academic learning and intellectual learning. Neither of these categories stands alone, they are interdependent and both are critical for a lifetime of learning. Critical thinking skills fall under the umbrella of intellectual learning and are a big focus for us here at DCM.
The research is undeniable, the best way to develop critical thinking skills is in environments where children feel safe to experiment with ideas through hands-on, open-ended play. Reasoning and problem solving are two critical thinking skills we pay close attention to. As a result of this research we are very intentional here about creating experiences that support children in developing the ability to reason and make predictions as these are important critical skills at the foundation of scientific thinking and impact science learning later in life. “If-then reasoning” in particular is an extremely important skill needed for scientific experimentation and where we will focus our attention today.
Can you think of areas at DCM that seem to lend themselves to “if-then reasoning”?
There are a plethora of opportunities for children to practice “if-then reasoning” through play experiences in the Museum. One example is the scale in Math Connections which is designed for children to safely experiment with weight and balance. “If you take away some of the blocks, will my end move up?”
Make it Move was designed to be the “cause and effect” center of the Museum. Here, children can create and conduct their own simple experiments with velocity, speed, and gravity as they move balls on stationary ramps or inclined planes created with blocks.
With the play materials chosen for the Stream Table in AWEsome Water, children can experiment and wonder, “Will it sink or will it float?” or “If I fill one container, can I pour it into another container without it spilling over?”
Unit blocks is another excellent area designed to enhance intellectual thinking. Block building, among other things, offers opportunities to learn causal and space concepts. In the Museum we have over 800 blocks for children to use as they explore equality, comparison, and estimation. “If I put the bigger block on top of the smaller block, will it stay in place? I wonder how high I can build before my structure falls down?”
Looking for ways to build critical thinking skills at home? Cooking with your child at home is a great way to enhance “if-then reasoning.” Changing something from a liquid (cake mix, for instance) to a solid (a cake) is not just delicious; your child also can discover how some materials change in his or her world. What will happen if you put juice in the freezer? Through these simple activities your child is observing cause and effect and learning to make predictions.
What are your experiences here or at home with reasoning? Do you have questions about strategies for supporting your child’s development of intellectual skills? Fire away! Post questions and comments here or on our other social media outlets! I look forward to hearing from you!