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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Fairies, Dinosaurs, Sabertooths, Ice Age, Asteroids, Volcanoes...

Oggie, you can be a Stijjy-moe-lock, and I am going to be Jigga-no-toe-saurus! I am going to eat you up!

I've been trying to put a finger on when the deep involvement with pixie-dust and dainty fairies opened up to a healthy curiosity for dinosaurs...

It looks like it must've been through Jack & Annie's adventure in Dinosaurs Before Dark. Yeah, we've been reading Magic Treehouse series, and boy am I glad she graduated from Rainbow magic series...

Well, she has not outgrown the fairy fascination by any measure - she still picks out Harriett The Hamster Fairy or Tia the Tulip Fairy on and off when we go to the library, but, doesn't care to read them back-to-back... and is happy making up her own stories - like Frita The Fruit Fairy. And talks about the quest for pixie-dust and tinker fairies being the best as they create things that are useful...

Anyway, thanks to The Magic Treehouse series, especially the Non-Fiction Companion books, we are learning more about our world.

Along with Sunset Of The Sabertooth (Magic Treehouse No.7) we borrowed the Non-Fiction Companion Sabertooths and The Ice Age. The non-fiction companion talks about the Ice Age and the Sabertooth fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits in L.A., Neanderthals, Cro-magnon, Mammoths, among other things. Ana is fascinated by these tidbits.

Why was there Ice Ages? Can it happen again now? What will happen to us when Earth is covered in ice and snow? Why did Dinosaurs disappear before the Ice Age? Why are cavemen there? Why didn't the Sabertooth cats know that they will get stuck in the tar pits?...

Who made the Earth? What is there in the rest of the Universe? Why does the earth have continents and oceans? If earth is spinning and rolling around the sun, why don't we feel it? What makes earthquakes? Why does the hot lava come from the volcanoes?

Questions, questions and more questions... many of the answers don't seem convincing to her. I don't blame her.

Simple science lesson of using the boiled egg to describe the earth seems to have some effect - Shell is the Crust, White is the Mantle, and Yolk is the Core, you know, the usual. But, it is incomplete. I could paint blue oceans on the shell, leaving the brown continents, and still, it doesn't help understand the plates on the earth's crust crashing and sliding... A globe, maps etc help but, they are all disjointed representations and somehow in her head it has to create the complete picture.

I am sure it will, at the right age, when she is ready for it. She is just a few months short of five, so, am glad she is asking these questions at all.

However, I feel terribly unprepared to handle a lot of these questions... I mean, I know most of the widely-accepted answers and can read up if I need to. That's not the issue. It is trying to make it accessible and easy for her to comprehend at this tender age, to foster and sustain the curiosity. I don't want to make it too complex for her and too boring... it might shut down her natural curiosity... at least for a while.

Incidentally, the Dinosaur Train on PBS is one show both Oggie and Ana like to watch on Saturday mornings. I am glad. For some reason, I have very little tolerance for cutesy dinosaur fiction aimed at giving little or distorted facts, making it fairly banal... of course, that didn't stop me from letting D show the kids movies like The Christmas Dinosaur, the Land Before Time series. However, the Dinosaur Train, while kid-friendly, offers interesting information that have so far stuck with Ana easily, so, am all for it.

And, since Ana has shown initiative and interest, we've watched a few informative yet child-friendly shows/documentaries, even Allosaurus: A Walking with Dinosaurs Special (2001).

Ideally, I like to screen them for graphic content that might be disturbing... but, she seems to have a clear picture of different worlds in her head - different from her own, separate and tucked away out of reach. So, there is the fairy world and the magic world, and there is the dinosaur world. There are no cross-overs so far in her mind. I am sure she'll figure out a way to imagine cross-overs and spook herself, but, that is part of growing up, I am sure...

Anyway, we've been on a dinosaur book-binge lately - from cutesy, easy-reads like How Do Dinosaurs... books to The Dinosaur Who Lost His Roar to Wordless Peter Sis's Dinosaur! to Dinosaur: Discovery Starts With A Single Word to Did Dinosaur Have Feathers... plus, the current #1 in the ever-changing Top Ten List Of Kids' Favorite Songs: Most Amazing Dinosaur Songs! (Thanks for the CD, Mom, you've seen how much they enjoy dancing and singing to these).

Yeah, sure, I am interested in learning more about life in prehistoric earth, but, nothing bordering on obsession. None of the dinosaur facts we've been reading will stay with me down the road - I have very little interest in factoids and statistics, and am terrible with names - I remember things usually by the feelings they evoke in me... So, while I might be able to recognize an occasional Triceratops or Stegosaurus or Pterosaur or Velociraptor or the terrible T.Rex, I am sure the Maiasaurus and Spinosaurus and Utahraptor and many more shall remain completely out of my realm.

I suspect we will be reading more about dinosaurs and sabertooths and mammoths and ice age and outer space and earthquakes and avalanches and such as time goes by... But for now, it is fun to pretend to be one of these giant reptiles and chase them around the house making terrible noises and letting their ear-splitting screams rattle the windows.

Stop chasing me, Allosaurus-Amma! Oggie, watch out! Allosaurus-Amma is going to eat us. Run!

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At 4:52 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

Your daughters questions and the way you're exploring them through science is very inspirational.

I wonder with Science if we kind of have to teach at a child's level even if it means allowing a few misunderstandings. Trusting that as they continue to interact with science they will gain a deeper and deeper understanding and those misunderstandings will get ironed out.

Just like when a 2 year old asks about babies we might leave it at "they come from Mummy's tummy". Then at 5 we might add "The Daddy puts the baby there." Then at (I don't know what age) we might describe the basics of sex. And so it continues ...

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Absolutely, Kristine, that's exactly it - we keep building up - start with simple explanations at their developmental level, even if incomplete and half-truths...

Like, when she wondered about the Earth spinning and rolling: I pretended to be the Sun and stood in the middle of the living room, Dad was the Earth and Oggie was the Moon, and Dad spun and went around me while getting Oggie to go round himself. It was the funniest exercise for us - but, it sure made an impact - she realizes what we define as a day and what we define as a year now, probably better than she would have if I had just shown pictures in books :)

That in no way guarantees understanding, but somethings are just defined a certain way and we accept it... that's the first step, I suppose.

I know, not all things can be demonstrated this way, and some things have to wait till she is ready... but, the whole process seems exciting as I am learning these all over again :)

And hopefully, she will be ready to pass on such things to Oggie when he is ready, sparing me the work :)

At 4:06 AM, Blogger Kristine said...

I thought this blog entry might interest you

The first half is stuff that you already do really well - presenting science in many thought provoking, hands on ways. The second half is about the misconceptions children have and the potential risk of leaving them unchallenged.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Thanks, Kristine, for the link! So true about challenging misconceptions as appropriate developmentally...

And so true about drawing from personal experience: we spent the summer in India, and dad was still here in the U.S., and through webcam chats (and Globe), Ana gleaned the fact that when it is Day in India, it is Night in N.America and that stuck with her - making the basic science lessons easier to connect with and assimilate :)


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