During one of our neighborhood adventure walks, we came upon a pile of leaves near the sidewalk. The little people were instantly captivated by the inviting scene. The combination of the scent, the sounds, and the vision of that many crunchy leaves gathered together was exhilarating for the little people. With a quick glance at my face and a reassuring nod of my head, the little people let go of each other's hands and dove in to the pile. Through this experience the little people were able to experience the joy of nature, explore textures and sounds and colors, feel the physics of throwing and falling leaves, and more than I will ever be able to articulate or understand.
The important thing is that the children used a natural interest to increase their learning experience. What would have happened if, as their teacher, I had dragged the class quickly away with a stern "we need to go!" rather than embracing the opportunity for exploration? Too often, teachers get wrapped up in their own agenda and forget that the reason we are there is to support the children's learning. What better way to learn than to dive into something that interests you? I have seen, and I honestly believe, that little people learn the most when they are engaged in activities that are meaningful to them.
As teachers, we need to take a step back and allow the children to take the lead in the learning process. When we give them the opportunity to engage in learning experiences that they have initiated, we are teaching them that their opinions are valuable and that they are competent and capable of designing their own destiny.
It takes courage and confidence to step back and let the little people lead themselves. It's difficult for many teachers to let go of that power and control. But isn't a loss of power that in return empowers an entire group of little people so worth it?
Be courageous, let the little people guide you.