This happened a few weeks ago. Isha picked up a PVC pipe and a few pairs of my ear-rings that were lying around. She placed the pipe sloping and kept dropping different ear-rings (some round, some long, some with hook, some with stem, some heavy, some light, some big, some small, sometimes singly, sometimes paired and so on) through the pipe and watching how they fell, and picking them up from the bottom. She kept altering the slope of the pipe from 90 degrees to almost zero and continued the same activity. I stopped what I was doing and observed her during the entire 30 minutes that she was at it, when she was oblivious of her environment including me (as I pretended to be doing my own thing.)
When I saw that she was almost done, I asked her ‘Hi kannamma, what are you doing?’ She said ‘Come, I’ll teach you a game! I’ll hold the pipe, and you drop a pair of earrings with hooks at the top. If they both get hooked together when they come down, you get a point.’ I said ‘Ok!' and dropped them together once, and yes, they did get hooked together. She said 'One point! Do it again. Each person gets two chances.' The second time, they didn't get hooked together. She said 'One more point! So, you have two points now.' I said 'But, they didn't get hooked together!' She said 'It doesn't matter. You get a point every time you drop it.’ (I love how rules get made up and changed as the game goes along. :) And we played this win-win game for a while.
In the initial ten minutes of my watching the game, my schooled mind was trying to analyse and box her activity in many ways ‘Oh, she’s learning all about gradient, speed, motion, force, density, etc.’ I, then, caught myself right there in the middle of that process, as I remembered what my yoga sutras teacher had shared with us just a few weeks ago about the flickering light in the Kalahasti Temple. “Don’t stand there and analyse its engineering - where the wind is coming from, at what speed, etc. Just stand there and be lost in wonder at the mystery of the universe, and find yourself in that prayer!”
I have no idea what my little scientist was upto. But I know that it was something immensely meaningful and joyful to her. It is very unlikely that she approached / initiated it as a ‘learning activity’. She was just AT IT, clearly engrossed in her exploration, lost in time. As I sat there, unschooling my mind and healing through my scars of being told (as a child, mainly by teachers in school) and watching many children being told repeatedly 'Don't waste your time. Come study'.
This blogpost is dedicated to my friend Jinan, who taught me how to let children be, observe them and learn from how they learn. You can read about him and his work in these sites.