“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
Over the past couple of months, the children have been excited to observe the changes in the many gifts from our garden friend, the hyacinth, amaryllis, tulip and daffodil bulbs. We have invited them to build off this energy through playful inquiry–as they develop their own theories for what might be happening.
In a previous Friday Update, we had shared the idea that as scientists, "your imagination is your most powerful tool. We want to keep the children's minds open to possibilities". We wanted to take some time to crack this idea open a little more.
Albert Einstein references the role of imagination, explaining that the theory of relativity was born in his early years as he played with the image of himself riding on a ray of light. This idea came to him through visual imagery as his mastery of speaking, reading and writing were late to develop. As a young child, he also played with the question, What would a beam of light look like if you caught up with it?
Questions play a crucial role in nurturing a playful inquiry attitude. We want to nurture children's natural learning strategies while also keeping alive their sense of wonder and curiousity about their world. We pose many questions to the children as a way to nurture their thinking and imaginations. We are not asking questions that only have one possible answer, but we are asking questions that we hope will engage their minds and offer them opportunities to practice theory-building, to seek connections and relationships, and to pose their own questions.
In an era of instant access to information and the internet, we ask ourselves how to nurture and sustain children's natural inborn sense of wonder and openness to ideas, theory building and possibility. There is so much yet to be uncovered and discovered about our world, even about things we encounter every day, for example:
Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes water and nobody knows what that is.
D.H. LAWRENCE (1885-1930), Pansies, 1929
As we began this inquiry into the bulbs and what might be happening, children shared many possibilties. Offering the children black line pens and watercolors, india ink, collage, paper collage, and colored pencils provided some possible avenues for children to play with their ideas and to create images to explain them. The materials can set a relaxed environment for the children to let their minds wander, engage their thinking and imaginations, connecting what they know to the unknown. The arts allow children to express their thinking in a way that they might not yet have all of the words to communicate their theories.
So here are some of their intial theories when asked to play with these questions:
What do you think is happening to the bulb? Why?
What do you imagine is inside of the bulb?
What do you think the bulb will grow in to?
"I think that there is a sun inside (the bulb). It's going to grow. It will go up into the sky. It's gonna hang up. It's joining the friend, the other sun." ~A.H.
"I think that there is a robot inside (the bulb). He wants to tell us that he is stuck inside. This (the green part) is the message that says 'I need your help!'. He wants us to get him out of the flower. He does not have enough strength. Every day he plans to grow. ~H.F.
"Inside (the bulb) is a Bumblebee Princess. She is using her head to push out the leaves." ~M.T.
"The water is helping it grow. It's bumping the bulb and making it grow. It does it at night when we're not here. It goes inside the bulb and all around." ~G.W.
"It's growing. The water pushed up the flower. It's so hard it can even blow the whole class come out. The water was surprised to see the flower." ~S.M.
"I think the two other bulbs that don't have a flower on the side will have flowers on the side too. And the little bulbs I think only have flowers on the side. When the liquid goes up to the top of the bulb they turn into flowers. The flowers will keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It will never run out of liquid. There is liquid in the water. The white stuff eats it then the liquid goes to the top of the bulb." ~S.R.
"The bulb is the 3 shades of reds. Everything else helps it to grow. It has a special kind of medicine. Black is like the soil. Yellow is the food." ~E.H.
"I think the water is making music that makes the bulb grow. It knowed that the flower liked music. It wanted to see what the flower looked like and it did a happy dance!" ~M.G.
As far as we know the human species is the only species with the capacity to imagine what is not there. If this is true, then it is our responsibility to nurture the imaginations of our youngest citizens who will live their adult lives in a world that we can only imagine.