The ‘why’ stage- it’s the often joked about stage of child development where children are so wildly filled will curiosity about the world around them that it seems every other word out of their mouths is ‘why’. Addressing and encouraging children’s natural curiosity is critical to shaping the type of thinkers they will be later in life. They need to be provided with answers, but they also need to feel competent and that they are capable of understanding the complexities of the world around them. If a child is made to feel that they are not fit to learn on their own, they are more likely to adapt an attitude of fleeing challenge rather than embracing it as a learning opportunity- growing up to seek opportunities to evade failure rather than explore and learn. In the book ‘How Children Succeed,’ author Paul Tough explains that ‘character is created by encountering and overcoming failure.’ However, a particular challenge arises for children coming from lower socioeconomic backgrounds- such as those living in the refugee camps in Nablus. ‘There is often little support to help them turn these omnipresent obstacles into character-enhancing triumphs.’ Children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds do not receive the support needed from their parents- often because the parents lack these higher order skills themselves.
Understanding this challenge, TYO’s curriculum was designed to address these issues and provide children with a safe space which encourages critical thinking and creativity. TYO’s Core Child Teachers create a positive environment for children by nurturing and supporting their natural curiosity. Core Child Teacher, Haithem, shares a story from a seed planting activity in his class to illustrate this point:
The focus of this past week was to teach children about logic and reasoning- with one of the primary areas of emphasis being understanding the relationship between cause and effect. To illustrate this concept for children, we spent the week learning about plants- how they grow and how to take care of them. At the beginning of the week we read stories about plants, watched videos, and had discussions, but it wasn’t until Wednesday’s planting activity that you could see the ideas resonate with the children. At this age children are thirsty for hands on activities- it’s how they learn best. We culminated the week’s activities by having children each plant their own seeds in a little garden at TYO. Each child then marked the place where they planted their seeds with a small sign with their name, helping the children to develop a sense of ownership and responsibility to the space. This activity conjured engagement from even the most withdrawn children- the entire class was suddenly abuzz with questions: ‘Is the seed thirsty?’ ‘Can he [the seed] breathe under so much dirt?’. But most exciting was the next day when children came in asking about their seeds, ‘Do you think they’re ok? It didn’t rain yesterday! We should feed them!’ The children’s concern signaled their understanding- plants need water to grow. If we feed the plan [action] it will grow [outcome].
It’s this combination of support and autonomy offered by TYO’s curriculum that the hope is for children grow to be confident and critical thinkers- who aren’t afraid to strive boldly for success, even if it means risking failure along the way.
-Haithem Okeh, Core Child Teacher & Jessica Dargiel, Deputy Director
This program is funded by the Abdel Hameed Shoman Foundation (AHSF)