In the Tinkering Studio we love looking for evidence of learning through making and building personally meaningful artifacts. In our current early childhood work, we've had the opportunity to work with 3 to 5 year olds over an extended period of time exploring marble machines while also supporting early childhood educators to see STEAM in children's natural play. A beautiful moment of an educator intervention to deepen the children's learning happened last week around the idea of data collection.
Liz and Michael (pseudonyms) have been fixated on the idea of creating "obstacles" for their marble to overcome as it travels down its pathway. They got to a point in their process where they were testing quickly but not making careful observations of why the marble would sometimes make it into the cup at the end and other times it would fall out. Their teacher Daisy noticed this and stepped in with a thoughtful facilitation approach that completely changed their energy. She started by asking a series of questions that helped them slow down and refocus their attention on how the marbles were moving. Since they have an existing practice of charting information, she then suggested that this might be an opportunity to try that here. They decided that when the marbles go in the cup they would draw a happy face, and when they fall off, they would draw a confused face. This facilitation intervention significantly changed the focus of how they were building, supporting them to be more purposeful and observational. They took turns between dropping marbles and tracking on their data sheet.
As you can see in the photo, as they revised their designs they ended up with a lot more happy faces than confused faces!
I love the idea that data collection can happen in such a clear way at a very early age. They would count how many went in versus fell off on a given test, and begin to propose theories about why it's happening. This demonstrates an ability to abstract from an action that happened in the past to a visual representation of why it's meaningful.
It also reminds me that careful and deliberate facilitation that still follows the learners' paths is vital for helping young learners to continue developing their own understandings of how the world around them works. I'm curious to see where Liz and Michael will take their explorations next!
This project is supported through a generous grant from the Early Learning and Care Division at the California Department of Education.