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Monday, March 29, 2010

Walk the dinosaur

T is into dinosaurs. Eh, he's a six year old boy. I think that an obsessive interest in dinosaurs is practically genetically programmed into them, or it would seem so based on casual observation. So I know it's pretty typical, but I'm tickled/fascinated all the same. Watching how he seeks, absorbs, and synthesizes that information is a reassuring case study in how the autodidactic process works, and illustrates quite vividly how an intense interest about one subject can lead to natural pursuit of knowledge and skills in many areas.

He isn't just a passive receiver of information. Yes, we visit the museum and watch shows (favorites are PBS's Dinosaur Train, a DVD lecture by Dinosaur George and the BBC special on the Allosaurus), play online and handheld games, and read, read, read. What's worth noting is what he does when he's not acquiring new data. He spends much of his time in role-playing make-believe, acting out not only what he's learned but also imagining answers to his own hypotheses. He draws pictures and tells stories in which dinosaurs play a starring role. He has covered every available space on his bedroom wall with posters, printouts, and drawings of his favorite creatures. But by far my favorite artifact is his field journal.

He started this on his own, as a place to store and display data cards printed out from his favorite dino websites.

But it didn't stop there. He started adding this:

Not bad for a boy who goes into paroxysms* of dramatic whining when asked to practice his letters or write anything other than his own dear four-letter name. That's work! That's HARD!

Don't get me wrong...he can't spell Corythosaurus (or Paleobatrachus, whose smiling face currently graces my fridge in Mom's place of honor) on his own. Yet. But he has the patience to sit down--on his own--and copy it out. Because it means something to him. Something that all of the penmanship worksheets in the world never could.

*And isn't that just a great word? LOL

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