The golden age of sciences
Any child is a passionate and exacting “understander “, as all parents experience with questions like: “How do planes fly?”, “Why is the lady fat?” or “Why don’t snakes have feet ?”… And more often than not, it is quite difficult to give a correct answer. It is the duty of school, which combines the necessary teaching competence and academic knowledge to answer these questions and to encourage innumerable other ones. It is however clear that one single teacher, whatever his/her level of education, is unable to master the whole range of required knowledge. Thanks to our modular system, this difficulty can be met.
Learning or understanding?
Learning gravitation… or understanding how it works and what it implies? Learning the laws of evolution… or understanding how and why this happened, and is still happening ? There is hardly anything in common between “learning”, where the aim is to reproduce for a test – this only summons medium-time memory at best – and “understanding”. It is especially important to keep that difference in mind with young children. In the traditional system, “learning the digestive system of ruminants”, for instance, meant that the pupil was then able to fill out labels and blanks in a prepared worksheet. What did he really understand? Did he get the main point, that the symbiotic bacteria colony in the rumen are doing the digesting, because they are needed to break down the cellulose of grass into nutriments?
Social science topics can be brought up with young children, on condition that their psychological level of development is always kept in mind. Recent history, the geography of the world, comparisons between present and past civilizations and between the organisations of various societies are introduced; in economy, we reflect on the nature of money and on what we use it for; law is a topic of choice for the primary level too, where children want to understand what is just and unjust and how various legal systems regulate this field.