Saturday, November 5, 2011

Wind, Wind, Wind the Bobbin

From the backseat I heard, "Mummy, I have a song to teach you."

"Go for it," I replied.

Wind, wind, wind the bobbin,
Wind, wind, wind the bobbin,
and pull...
And tap, tap, tap.

She proceeded to teach her little sister and I the hand motions that went along with the simple song, and as I did my best to drive and master the movements I could see in the rear view mirror, I thought about what a nice little song it was.  I imagined it to be a traditional tune that mothers would have sung with their daughters as they taught them to make yarn.  Or whatever you do with bobbins, I'm not entirely sure.

"This is a great song," the voice from the back piped up again.  "It's all about fishing!"

"Huh.  Tell me more."

""Well, you wind, wind, wind when you put the fishing line on the reel.  Then the bobbin is the thing that floats in the water.  When you catch a big fish you have to pull...and pull."

"What about the tap, tap, tap?" I asked.

"Well...that part just makes the song sound good."

I loved the whole conversation.  Except for bobber/bobbin confusion she had done an excellent job of creating  meaning for something within her contextual understanding.  For those of you who don't know, my husband has embarked on a quest to catch and eat every species of fish in New Hampshire this year, so fishing is a prime topic of conversation in our home.  It made perfect sense to her four year old brain that they would be singing about fishing in preschool!

It got me thinking about how incredibly important it is for us as parents to give our children experiences with which they can build a context for understanding.  Imagine a child's brain as a large piece of fabric, and new information as ping pong balls covered in velcro.  Every time a child encounters information that they have not yet synthesized into their knowledge base it is a velcro covered ping pong ball being thrown at the fabric.  There is a chance of it grabbing hold and sticking, but not not a big one.  Now imagine that every time a child has an experience with a loving, caring adult, an experience as small as reading a story or as big as visiting a national park, an experience that they can talk about and ask questions about and process...imagine that each time a child has an experience such as this a patch of velcro is sewn onto the fabric.  The opposite half, the jelly to the ping pong ball's peanut butter.  With each experience and with each patch of velcro that child's mind is getting stickier and stickier.  With every patch sewn on it gets easier and easier for that new information to stick.  The new stuff has more and more to grab on to and hold.  Knowledge is formed faster and more easily with each and every experience.

Perhaps it won't always stick in exactly the way it was intended...but it will be in there.  And that child will modify his or her understanding as the context continues to grow.

Right now Zoe thinks that song is about fishing.  She's planning on having her daddy record it and feature it on his blog.  I'm not going to correct her.  But I'd bet anything that if ever we visit the textile mill museum down in Lowell (and we will, I'm a museum junkie), she'll remember what she learns about bobbins more that anything else.  She's got a patch already for that ball to stick to!

Hanna Andersson