"It is, in fact, nothing short a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom." Albert Einstein
|From an early age David would choose to 'drive' the tractor|
|Fully engaged in a motivational sorting and matching opportunity. Photo Ronel Boshoff Bakker, South Africa|
During a Mindstretchers Action Research project in Liverpool, United Kingdom we looked specifically at Boys and tracked 3 boys in 20 schools over the 9 month period using the Leuven scales of Well being and Involvement. By introducing a child centred consultative planning approach using Claire Warden’s Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™ methodology we introduced opportunities for children to explore what challenges, interests and motivates them, increased natural resources in the classrooms and increased risky opportunities including the introduction of real tools and fires. At the end of the project we were able to demonstrate an increase in the boys’ levels of wellbeing and involvement! What meant even more to me was how the perception of the Teachers changed - top four adjectives to describe boys went from “energetic, fun-loving, boisterous and noisy” to “energetic, fun-loving, caring and sensitive”!
|Construction - 3D transient art, light and shadow, science, maths|
One of the major concerns regularly raised is connected to boys’ education! The Australian Government has managed a number of research projects relevant to this and this as well as public debate have identified a number of key issues which are very similar to findings in the United Kingdom:
- Schooling is not a positive experience to many boys.
- Boys are less engaged and less motivated in their schooling
- Behavioural issues are more likely to be associated with boys
- Depression and suicide is more prevalent in boys
- Boys are less likely to stay at school
- Fewer boys than girls are achieving the national literacy benchmarks
- The gap between boys’ and girls’ academic achievements has increased
|Large construction opportunity in the classroom, not seat based! Thank you to Cornish College, Melbourne|
|Classroom in a tipi, thanks to John Marsden, Candlebark School, Melbourne.|
|Scientific exploration - a REAL experience. Photo Ronel Boshoff Bakker, South Africa|
Boys behaviour is often seen as being aggressive. What is interesting is that we interpret play behaviours differently. I asked male and female Teachers to write observations of children's play, the males all referred to rough and tumble play while the majority of females recorded aggressive play. Boys are programmed to protect their territory, to be the hunter gatherer so it is no wonder that they have a natural instinct to make and use guns to protect their space or to go 'hunting'. As females we often over react to this urge instead of seeing it as a role play opportunity and sensitively supporting boys to explore their instinct. Fairness and the rights of other children should be recognised. Making and using bows and arrows for example takes a lot of skill and is a motivational learning opportunity. Boys should not be made to feel 'bad' for having this urge - many families also have friends or relatives in the armed forces or game hunters - it is not the weapon that is bad but how it is used.
|Stuart climbing trees demonstrating his skills|
|Martin at 3 seeking the challenge of sliding down a waterfall|
|Teenage boys seeking risk and challenge|
Boys’ brains mature in a different sequence to girls and they develop concepts of movement and space first so an environment that allows these concepts to become concrete is vital. The best place for boys to learn is the outdoors! There are no walls to bounce off, plenty of opportunity to be active, to take part in large scale construction and role play opportunities.
|The outdoor classroom, thanks to John Marsden, Candlebark School, Melbourne.|
To allow all our children to succeed we need to ensure that we consult with them and offer them opportunities that motivate and stimulate each and every child in our care. Only by doing this will our children have high levels of well-being , be engaged in the opportunities on offer and be able to reach their full potential whatever that potential is.
"Children are born passionately eager to make as much sense as they can of things around them. If we attempt to control, manipulate, or divert this process...the independent scientist in the child disappears." John Holt
West, P. (2002) What is the Matter with Boys? Choice Books, Sydney.
Warden, C. (2006) Talking and Thinking Floorbooks™
Ros Bayley, Sally Featherstone. (2010) Cleverness of Boys
I also acknowledge the work of
Gary Wilson, freelance consultant, Huddersfield, York, UK
Joseph Tobin, Professor of Early Childhood Education, Arizona State University
Dr Jeremy Swinson, Liverpool John Moores University