Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Young children–just 4 or 5 years old–may be better at college students at catching on when it comes to operating mobile apps, remote controls, and other tech gadgets that often leave adults scratching their heads and fumbling through manuals. According to new research from the University of California at Berkeley, it’s the tots’ openness to thinking about new challenges in multiple ways that enables them to problem-solve their way to success with gadgets and games.
In the study, more than 100 preschoolers and more than 170 college students were given a music box game and shown how the placement of differently-shaped clay pieces on top of the box might make it turn on. The subjects were then asked to turn the box on. NPR reports on the findings:
“What we discovered, to our surprise, was not only were 4-year-olds amazingly good at doing this, but they were actually better at it than grown-ups were,” [psychologist Alison] Gopnik says.
So why are little kids who can’t even tie their shoes better at figuring out the gadget than adults? After all, conventional wisdom contends that young children really don’t understand abstract things like cause and effect until pretty late in their development.
Gopnik thinks it’s because children approach solving the problem differently than adults.
Children try a variety of novel ideas and unusual strategies to get the gadget to go. For example, Gopnik says, “If the child sees that a square block and a round block independently turn the music on, then they’ll take a square and take a circle and put them both on the machine together to make it go, even though they never actually saw the experimenters do that.”
This is flexible, fluid thinking — children exploring an unlikely hypothesis. Exploratory learning comes naturally to young children, says Gopnik. Adults, on the other hand, jump on the first, most obvious solution and doggedly stick to it, even if it’s not working. That’s inflexible, narrow thinking. “We think the moral of the study is that maybe children are better at solving problems when the solution is an unexpected one,” says Gopnik.
Gopnik went on to say that this openness may disappear early in childhood–even by kindergarten, it may be diminishing.
Image: Confused college student, via Shutterstock
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Friday, June 13th, 2014
A 10-year-old Sacramento boy has earned his high school diploma after being home-schooled and achieving a perfect 4.0 grade point average. The Huffington Post has more on Tanishq Abraham’s accomplishment:
Tanishq was home-schooled and graduated with a 4.0 GPA. He told KXTV the work wasn’t easy, but not that hard either.
“The way my brain works is that when you give me something, information about that topic comes into my mind,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but that’s how it is for me.”
His mom, Taji, said she suspected her son was gifted, but didn’t know until the results of an IQ test. Tanishq joined Mensa, a group for people whose IQ is in the top 2 percent of the population, at the age of 4.
So what’s next for him?
Tanishq is taking college courses and says he wants to be a scientist, but also president. He has his sights set on medical school at the University of California, Davis, and finding a cure for cancer.
Image: Graduation cap, via Shutterstock
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Monday, May 5th, 2014
Kids who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors may have a deeper sense of purpose, fulfillment, and spirituality, according to new research at Michigan State University. More from the study’s press release:
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In the study, published recently in the Journal of the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, children who played outside five to 10 hours per week said they felt a spiritual connection with the earth, and felt their role is to protect it.
“These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being,” said Gretel Van Wieren, assistant professor of religious studies. “We were surprised by the results. Before we did the study, we asked, ‘Is it just a myth that children have this deep connection with nature?’ But we found it to be true in pretty profound ways.”
For example, the children in her study expressed feelings of peacefulness and some believed that a higher power had created the natural world around them. They also reported feeling awestruck and humbled by nature’s power, such as storms, while also feeling happy and a sense of belonging in the world.
The study also measured children’s aesthetic values, finding that those who engage in free play outside on a regular basis have a deep appreciation for beauty (i.e., balance, symmetry and color), order and wonder (i.e., curiosity, imagination and creativity). For example: lush green bushes, pattern-like blue spots in water and fascination with bees’ nests.
Van Wieren and co-researcher Stephen Kellert, from Yale University, used a mix of research methods, including in-depth interviews, drawings, diaries and observation, as well as conversations with parents. Seven of the 10 children in the study – who were 7 to 8 years old – were from families with a Christian background.
The researchers also found parents of the children who expressed the highest affinity toward nature and the strongest spirituality spent significant time outdoors during their childhoods. And many of the parents believed such experiences shaped their adult lives and spirituality.
Image: Girl playing in the woods, via Shutterstock
Friday, May 2nd, 2014
A group of churches in Memphis have organized their first-ever prom for teenagers who live with disabilities like Down syndrome. More from ABC News on the “Memphis Joy Prom:”
[The prom was] complete with a red carpet, a makeup station, limos and tiaras for everyone. They had a prom dress donation drive in March, and a church member offered to cover tuxedo rentals from Men’s Warehouse, so the 110 attendees didn’t have to spend a dime.
“This was our first one, and it was unbelievable,” organizer Ashley Parks told ABCNews.com.
Parks said one parent sent a heartfelt note thanking her for loving her children “as much as God loves them.”
“We all cried over it,” she said. “It was one of many.”
But what made the Joy Prom different was that it allowed people 16 and up to attend. She said a couple with disabilities in their 60s went to Joy Prom because they never got to go to one when they were in high school.
Image: Prom corsage, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014
A 9-year-old Michigan boy exploring a creek near his house made an astounding find–a 10,000-year-old mastodon tooth. A mastodon is an extinct, giant relative of the modern-day elephant. More from CNN:
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“I was walking down at the creek last summer. I felt something that I stepped on so I picked it up and everybody in the neighborhood thought it was pretty cool,” Philip Stoll told CNN on Friday.
Affectionately called “Huckleberry Phil” in his neighborhood near Lansing because of his penchant for exploring outside, Philip took the lump home and washed it off in the kitchen sink, and checked to see if it was magnetic, his mother, Heidi Stoll said. It wasn’t.
The peculiar object was about 8 inches in length, brown, and had six peaks.
“I was holding it in my hands for a few minutes and then it gave me the creeps so I put it down on the desk,” Heidi Stoll told CNN. “It looked like a tooth. It looked like there was something like gum tissue, a little bulgy thing around the top.”
After researching “large tooth object” on the Internet, mother and son reached out to James Harding, a herpetologist — an expert on reptiles and amphibians — at nearby Michigan State, who told them it was the tooth of one of the long-gone beasts that roamed the area millennia ago.
“This is indeed a mastodon tooth,” Professor Harding confirmed in an e-mail. “Apparently (it is) the upper surface, broken off at the roots.”
Philip told CNN that he always thought he might want to be a paleontologist — a scientist who studies prehistoric life — but now feels that more than ever. And with summer approaching, there’s more exploring to be done.