The Doing Is the Learning


It’s something I heard at the very beginning of my foray into early childhood education – and it’s something that I continue to hear to this day.

It’s about the process rather than the product.

When I first heard it, I wondered about it and explored it. As I’ve worked with groups of kids (of all ages and all types), I know it is true.

The learning comes with the the doing of something. The value lies in the exploration and discovery, not what you have at the end.

Recently in my classroom, I saw it in action again. Affirmation that kids are more about the experience of it all rather than the “something” that may exist at the end.

We were making wrist bands – using pieces of cardboard paper towel tube, masking tape, and stickers. (At least that was my idea when I put out the materials.) I saw kids putting on stickers, removing them, rearranging them. I saw kids exploring how to pull take and cut tape. I saw “wrist bands” become towers or cylinders wrapped in tape.

I saw kids work for a while. They experimented. They cut tape and put it on. They took it off. They rearranged it. Then a few of these kids put their “product” in the trash can, just tossing it away. “I don’t want it,” they said.

This learning through doing happens throughout our classroom, the process is always in action.

I see it as kids use blocks. They explore different shapes and try different approaches. They mix materials in different and creative ways. I may talk about what they are doing but the end product is not important – and it is so temporary. In fact, sometimes the building is just a process to get to the REAL activity, knocking it down.

I see it as kids play in our home center. Roles are taken on and discarded. Scenarios happen and then change. The table is set for a family meal and then evolves into a restaurant and then into a completely new place – all with the fluidity of process and learning and experience. In fact, this type of activity is all experience.

Years ago I read an article titles “Put Your Name on Your Painting But the Blocks Go Back on the Shelves.” It stressed the value often put on more permanent experiences and less value on those temporary ones. I think we often stress “What are you making?” over “What are you doing?” or “What are you learning?”

Yet many kids often don’t have an end result in mind when they pick up the block or the paintbrush. They just begin doing. They try and experiment and discard. They adjust and adapt. Sometimes at the end they give the creation a name. Or they just move on, their interest shifted to something else.

Let’s value the process, the doing, more than what may be made at the end. Let’s value where the real learning happens. Encourage exploring and doing just for the sake of the experience. Bring in materials with no idea of what may be done with them. Place materials on an art table or near the blocks center and just watch.

Kids will figure out what to do with it. They will learn something.

And so will the teacher.

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