EcoUniv Environmental Education Framework – Understanding the learner – Six year old / first grade

The typical six-year old child is undergoing a transformation over an 18-month period – only if we stop to notice it.

  • Their baby teeth are making way to adult teeth and this process has its own questions, anxieties, joys, and pain. They are also losing baby fat and growing in limbs and other body organs.
  • Compared to kindergarten toddlers, they are becoming a bit more physical and risk-taking. They are constantly climbing stairs, slides, trees, ropes and towers, which they find everywhere (if you let them). They are hanging from bars and doors, trying out long and high jumps, doing cartwheels, and other forms of gymnastics. They are running all over gardens, mountains, and grounds. They need free space!
  • They are getting better at hand-eye coordination and can handle a variety of tasks, including clay modelling and gardening.
  • They have still retained their faith in story-telling and they love play. They are also trying to make more sense of the real world. Students at age 6 can connect dots and guess where a story is leading. Sometimes the assumptions from the imaginary world may get superimposed onto observations from the real world.
  • They socialize frequently with their peer group. They present ideas and events firmly and in great detail. Their language skills and vocabulary continues to expand, especially as formal language teaching is now happening at school.
  • They are getting better at the spatial sense and can make and follow basic maps and even give directions to others.
  • They are getting better at symbol manipulation, also aided by their first math lessons in school. They can count and they can read clocks.
  • Though they may not know what scientific method or hypothesis is, students of this age are already forming simple hypotheses, observing things, collecting data, and forming conclusions in their own way.
  • A lot of their learning is still from imitation, but they are getting nearer to the stage where they will form their own judgements and ‘learn to learn’ from verbal instruction.

Implications for nature education

  • The kid’s new sense of the world that dawns at age 6 must include an expanded set of nature understanding. Interactions and activities within nature should take this into account.
  • They should be made to observe physical structure, movement, motion, and balance of all things in nature and appreciate the diversity and similarity in them, and also relate them with the structural and physical abilities they are acquiring. Some of this learning may happen consciously while some will just happen intuitively via observation.
  • There should not be an overload of intellectual and symbolic learning. They are still learning from stories and play, like they were in kindergarten. These pillars should continue to be used in wholesome learning. In fact, the kids at 6 are inventing more play on their own and spending more time setting it up.
  • Philosophical concepts like creation, birth/death, or God will find their way in some conversations with these kids, but they may not necessarily grasp the full extent of all such concepts. Nevertheless, nature’s cycles, nature’s vast canvas and design, nature’s beauty should be experienced by them in a physical as well as in a very basic philosophical sense.
  • This is the first age, where nature and its elements can be explored and discussed meaningfully as a group and not just as an individual.
  • Their finer motor skills means they are doing more drawing, clay modelling, and other crafts. All of these are excellent opportunities to bring in natural materials, natural colours, objects and content in their artwork.