Saturday I taught a boating safety course for young children (8-13) and adults through the Coast Guard Auxilary. What I always marvel at in these classes is the enthusiasm the children bring to learning about boating. I use a lot of question and answer to develop the themes and the children actively participate. I have noticed that how one handles a wrong answer is critically important. Any negativity in my response and the child shuts down for the rest of the day and stops participating. I think that even at this young age schools have already conditioned the children not to make mistakes.
Talking to one of the parents during the lunch break provided an interesting insight. He talked about how many, many mistakes he had made when he first started boating, but that over time he had become more accomplished. In other words, he had not stopped boating because he had made mistake after mistake. Three observations:
- Boating is a very "hands on" activity with little theory or complex concepts to master before starting out. By doing boating one learns to safely and successfully operate the boat
- When you learn boating by yourself, you have no one to criticize you (except perhaps a terrified wife) and you overcome the mistakes over time
- With thousands of dollars invested in a boat, one is motivated to learn how to do it.
Much of the way one learns boating mirrors Piaget's theory of how children learn. The learning is hands on, self-directed and with little input from a teacher.
I am increasingly coming to enjoy teaching young children. They are like sponges if you do not snuff out their natural enthusiasm. Maybe I should start a charter school using a boat. Wonder how expensive a marine Internet connection is?
Image credit: watersport-insight.com