Why we don't tell children where the mice are
I was at the museum today with my younger son. As a 'children's activity', the museum had hidden mice in various exhibits and gave out a map to encourage young people to find the mice. This was working out great for us today. My son was happily finding mice and I was perusing the exhibits. We each discovered different things, and he would highlight his findings to me, I would note what I found interesting... we were having a great time exploring and learning at our own pace in our own way.
For my son today, the object I could tell, was not really the mice but noting how the map and the museum were laid out, what symbols the map used, what clues they gave... he was expanding his literacy and 101 ways, as well as his spacial awareness. At the same time he was adding facts to his geographic knowledge and indulging in the rich sensory experience of a museum - areas of shade and light, the dusty smell, the many different fonts.... the colours from so many places.
The mice, I thought, were clever devices. Our search for them was really an excuse to look carefully in exhibits we might have otherwise ignored. But we did not need to find the mice, we were very much following our interests. This was independent, child-led learning. And it was wonderful.
And then a well intentioned but not well-informed museum aid came to help us. When he saw my son looking in the 'wrong' area, he quickly tried to 'help him find the mouse'. But no, no, no...helping is not curtailing the exploration, it is not taking away the joy of discovery. Education is not about finding the mice, it is about the many unexpected, wonderful discoveries you make while looking for the mice. You night even forget all about the cute little rodents and suddenly find yourself fascinated by the moon, or textiles, or smells! Who knows! The amazing thing is that unique journey that is only yours. Where you learn how to explore and what you like exploring.
Don't tell children where the mice are!!