It is fascinating to see the capacity children have to build knowledge webs, and to see how they connect ideas. When my eldest son was 3, on hearing the Easter story, he likened the death and resurrection of Jesus to a caterpillar disappearing into its cocoon and emerging as a butterfly. How profound, I thought. One of the problems I have with the current educational approach in schools is the fragmentation of knowledge, which does not encourage children to make connections. Subjects and information are separated rather than being integrated.
Over the last 3 evenings, we have been enjoying the annual Christmas Lectures from the Royal Institution. These are always stimulating presentations with plenty of practical and interactive demonstrations and experiments. The subject for this year was "The Brain". One of the points the lecturer made was that, although all the neurons are present in a baby's brain, it is during early childhood that connections are made, and the brain develops into a neural network, based upon the child's experiences.
As if to demonstrate this, our youngest son (aged 5), watching the lectures, got out pens and paper and proceeded to draw and write out all the knowledge he has about the human body, starting with the brain. Not only was it interesting to see how he connected all this knowledge together into a complex whole, but (in relation to recent posts below) how he recorded this with his own free writing, a new development for him. His first page was somewhat disorganised and chaotic, requiring some decoding on my part. He also, as a left hander, continues to sometimes start writing on the right, and to muddle his lines. However, it was also late in the evening for him. The next morning, he continued his work, and produced some very clear writing, all in the right direction, on the same theme. He remains fascinated by the food tube and the process of digestion. A good look through his Usborne Body Book also followed the lectures - a mind clearly stimulated, connections being made.