Every moment can be an opportunity for a child to learn if parents and educators put their minds to it. The environment, direct or indirect, can be used as a powerful learning tool, whether it's a trip to the supermarket to a history-changing political event unfolding on the TV.
For example, there are tons of learning opportunities when you take a preschooler to the supermarket. If you both cut out, copy or print out different labels of things you want to buy you can then let him explore the supermarket, identify them and place them in the trolley. It's a super pre-reading activity. If you ask him to count some of the purchased activities you have a math activity and if you ask him to sort the fresh goods and the canned goods or the fruits and vegetables you have a great classification (science) activity.
Using an event such as this makes history take on life and moves it beyond the memorization of dates, names and events.
If you want your primary school child to become more mindful of how he is being marketed to, ask him to count advertisements during a pre-assigned show. The task is to count and observe the advertisements. Most children will only count the "obvious" advertisements that are interspersed between the show segments. Then you can read out an article on "product placement advertising" and ask them to watch the show again to catch such messages.
If your child is a teenager, the US presidential election offers valuable lessons about the world. They are likely aware of it given that it's all over the news and a regular part of dinner-table conversation. Now is your chance to really get them engaged in the subject and thus learn valuable lessons about how the world and politics work. For a start it gives a child a context of why history is important. How all the decisions and actions of the past give rise to the present and how our decisions and actions in the present will shape the future. Using an event such as this makes history take on life and moves it beyond the memorization of dates, names and events. It highlights how the study of history is a prerequisite for understanding politics, social structure and cultures.
Here are some activities that revolve around the US elections:
- Get them to understand what a democracy means. There are many videos available online including Khan Academy's "Sal teaches Grover about the electoral college", which also touches up a 'direct' and 'indirect' democracy. In addition, there are lucid videos on the Democrats and Republicans.
- What do the Republicans stand for? The Democrats? Explore which one your child has most alignment with and why.
- Looking at the funding of the elections and the impact this may have on policies that favour the funding corporations. Discuss who then really runs the country or who has the most impact on the way the country is run.
- Play a game of "what if?" And explore ways in which the present may be different in light of this—what if weapons of mass destruction were found? What if Al Gore had won? What if Pakistan and India were still one?
- Who are the two candidates for the Presidency? What are the positives and negative traits your child can list for each? If your child were to vote, who would she pick and why?
- Are there any views your child has on some of the larger debates from the current election? Abortion? Gun laws? Immigration laws?
- Now ask your child to write one page of "future history"—one version with Trump as President and the other with Clinton at the helm.
- Explore the media's role during the elections. Which channels, publications seem biased? How and why? Which ones seem more objective? How is the election being used as "entertainment?" Explore some of the humour and jokes arising from the election.
Using the environment and current events as learning and teaching tools develops a love of knowledge in young minds and opens up the beauty and wonder of science, math and history.
The World is a Learning Oyster. Using the US Election as a Learning Tool