The typical eight-year old has gained increased fluency in language, be it reading, listening comprehension, or speech. In fact, this is the age when most of them become avid readers and passionately read children’s books of one or more kind – fairy tales, adventure, detective stories, or comics. With the right coaching and resources, they are also comfortable with more than one language in school or at home.
In Mathematics, they are at ease with longer numbers (3-5 digits) and can perform arithmetical operations on them. They can tell the clock, measure quantities, and keep a record of expenses. This is the age at which they also get introduced to basic geometric shapes and related concepts.
They can observe natural phenomena as well as scientific experiments and keep records of observations. They can articulate similarities and differences between concepts, phenomena, objects and classes of objects. They can also classify all these. They can conduct small experiments and make logical deductions.
Physically, they are more organized and focused, whether they are playing a sport, running, jumping, climbing, or skipping a rope. They are willing to play a wide variety of games and sports and love to understand their rules.
Socially, they enjoy group activities and play. They like to participate in groups and support groups in indoor or outdoor tasks. They also learn to cooperate better, share more, and work on the group’s problems together and with patience.
Implications for nature education
At this age, kids are genuinely interested in grasping material through long stories. We propose that the following two ‘stories’ – essentially natural history and man-nature relationship history packaged as stories – be narrated to them either verbally or through books, comics, or appropriate videos.
- The story of evolution and biodiversity: How living beings got created on Earth and the overall journey of evolution
- The story of man and nature’s relationship and human civilization: Our journey as hunter-gatherers, farmers, pastoralists, and today’s industrialized mode of living, co-existing with tribal societies and the above modes
At this age, kids are also capable of basic geographic understanding of their vicinity, town, and possibly the county or district. They may be introduced to concepts like interpreting the map of their town or district, filling various details in the map, etc. They can learn to relate the physical/climatic conditions in their area to the modes of living, vocations, and socio-cultural aspects.
This opportunity can be taken to reinforce a mapping of natural landscapes onto the administrative boundaries (maps) of their town or district. Natural landscapes are composed of a mosaic of ecosystems and may not necessarily fit the map’s boundaries. Here the concept of an ecosystem can be introduced in preliminary terms. The long story of these natural elements (e.g. a river preceding human civilization, and human settlements happening along rivers) can be highlighted.
In short, at this age the learner can receive their first formal, yet preliminary, introduction to the concepts of natural history, man-nature relationship history, human civilization, it’s connection with nature (e.g. land, water, forests), and their visual, geographical mapping. This can be done in a story format, engaging content, and immersive experiences coupled with classroom learning.