The best learning for a young learner is the inspiration inherent in an on-going discovery process. To mentor an empowered learning process doesn’t require official lesson plans and extensive knowledge. It simply requires sparking curiosity, encouraging exploration, and guiding towards self-inspired knowledge achievement. The Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, recognized the rippling value of nurturing exploratory learning when he stated, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Such fiery empowerment fuels imaginative discovery, builds problem solving skills, and foundations the learner to become the driving force behind learning.
Try the common sunflower
Sometimes, the best opportunities to blow on embers of learning are overlooked because great inspiration seems so ordinary. For example, have you taken advantage of the common sunflower (helianthus annuus) to inspire your young learner?
Light a spark
One doesn’t have to have the knowledge of a botanist to spark interest and curiosity. For a young learner, use foundational details and intriguing facts. Seek to spark a sense of wonder, a measure of humor, and a path of exploration.
Nature learning notes
Sunflowers are gorgeous, huge plants. They’re flowers that tower, especially for a young learner. Sunflowers grow to tremendous heights of up to 10 feet, as tall as young trees. Encountering a single sunflower or a field of sunflowers is a youthful, sensory experience.
Build on its wonder. Point out how the sunflower’s name suits it well, for sunflowers are responsive to the sun. Yes, amazingly, sunflowers actually move to allow their heads to follow the sun across the sky during the day.
And, beautiful, golden sunflowers are a culinary treat. Their nutty seeds are coveted foods for birds, animals, and humans. Sunflowers were one of the first plants cultivated in the United States, and Native Americans used the tall, seeded plants for food and oil.
Opening paths of learning and knowledge
Encourage further personalized exploration. If your young learner already enjoys birds, ask if it sounds like fun to get a bird feeder, fill it with sunflower seeds, and see what birds come to the feeder. If that seems to spark excitement, take the opportunity to involve your young learner in choosing and buying the feeder and the seed. Allow the feeder and food choices to belong to your young learner. When birds come (and they will), ask if borrowing a bird identification book from the library and identifying the birds together sounds like a good idea.
Or, consider that an avenue to further knowledge exploration may be through your young learner’s tummy. Ask if your young learner would like to try tasting some sunflower seeds. Buy some shelled and unshelled. If they’re tasty, ask your young learner how they might be added to the family’s favorite foods or recipes. That leads naturally to sprinkling seeds on cereal or on top of salads or, of course, adding crunch to a favorite cookie, pancake, or dressing recipe.
Build empowerment by allowing alternate pathways
It may be that your young learner doesn’t want to feed birds or eat sunflower seeds. Leave exploration’s pathway open. Perhaps, it’s the colors of sunflowers that intrigue and getting out art tools, firing up a painting app on a tablet, or picking up a camera are possible, natural paths of discovery for your learner.
Allow your young learner to chat with you, so you can establish open mentoring. Perhaps, from an open dialogue might emerge explorations of other flowers or plants, a visit to the museum to see paintings like Van Gogh’s classic SUNFLOWERS or the brilliant modernity of Georgia O’Keefe’s colorful flower paintings, buying sunflower seeds or daffodil bulbs to plant, or simply picking daisies for a visit to the grandparents or a sick friend.
Recognize and honor your young learner’s individual inquiry processes. Praise points of curiosity; encourage decisions and the leadership inherent in questions and choices. Enjoy the learning interaction and build the wonder and enjoyment of nurtured discoveries.
Nature is an inspirational learning tool
Nature notes are a sound springboard, for nature is a vital and pivotal learning component for children. Historian Thomas Berry once declared, “Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives.”
True wonder and deep appreciation for nature are empowered learning tools, simple and critical as sparks for further exploration. Such curious, real world learning is vital. Albert Einstein highlighted its importance by stating, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” From tiny sparks of inspired curiosity and discovery, your learner’s future, powerful achievements can emerge.