Interesting piece on NPR this morning in which Shankra Vedantam reviews some of the recent research in neuroscience. You can listen to it here, and you should because it highlights something simple and significant — that the best way to keep learning over one’s life is to keep hold of the boundless inquiry that characterizes early childhood.
“Using mathematical techniques that allow researchers to disentangle the effects of genetic and environmental influences on individuals,” Vedantam reports, researchers “noticed that kids who had higher IQs to begin with seemed to have an extended period in adolescence during which they retained the ability to learn at a rapid pace, just like much younger children.
“I found that twins that had a higher IQ were showing a more childlike pattern of influence during adolescence,” said one of the researchers, Penn State’s Angela Brant.
If that’s true, it would make sense to structure learning environments for children that are proactively designed to unleash each young person’s inherent sense of wonder and curiosity. And yet, here in DC and elsewhere across the country, we are doing the opposite. It’s true — too many young people are arriving in school with extreme deficits when it comes to literacy and numeracy. And it’s true — those things matter. But the best way to help all children thrive is not by making Kindergarten resemble a 10th grade honors class; it’s by making that 10th grade honors class more like Kindergarten.
That’s something educators have known for a long time. Now they have the research to boot.