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The Column icon The Column: Issue 69

The Library > The Column Archive > The Column 069

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Splish Splash

When kids see a puddle they have an unbridled desire to splash in it. Adults on the other hand tend to do one of two things when they see a young one rushing towards a shallow pool of water. They either warn their enthusiastic charge not to mess up their clothes, or worse, they run behind and scoop the child up just before their feet reach the rippling surface. What is it that drives kids towards water, and why do most adults avoid splashing all together?


The Pursuit of Knowledge

We are built to learn. The more we learn, the greater our chance of survival, reproduction, and prosperity. Our strength as a species lies in the way we use our minds to meet a challenge. An olympic athlete can touch 36mph (58kph). Despite that being a lot faster than I can run, this is still not fast enough to escape the reaches of a predator. Our best defense is using our minds to outwit those who want us for lunch. We're hard-wired to think, and the spark that attracts us to a puddle is to discover and explore a less familiar environment.

We review the material by splashing. Our feet stamp down and experience an altogether different reality compared with the familiar resistance of a solid surface under our shoes. We practice science, the effort to discover and understand how physical reality works. It's not the academic science of the classroom, but rather the practical experiential science that we use every day as we navigate the world.

Surface Tension

Young children are more flexible and open to new knowledge and experience than most adults. They are less constrained by how they will be viewed by others. If they do not know something they are more likely to ask or seek an explanation. This is partly due to their awareness that there are many things they have little or no experience of which older people do.

The acceptance of limited personal knowledge and understanding is the start of growth. As we age, social pressures and pride often cloud our ability to learn effectively. Those that run at a puddle display their tendency to learn. Each time we warn the child not to splash in the puddle, we send a message that learning (which is fun) is not approved of.

The Risks We Take

There is very little risk in splashing, the next step up is sliding. A cold spell comes and covers the playground with snow and ice. In an effort to keep the children safe the teachers clear paths to the entrance doors and encourage the parents and children to keep off the "dangerous" ice. While the risk of falling is increased with ice, all the more reason children should practice on it. The more experience we have with a material, the more prepared we are to cope, and ready to use it to our advantage.

Well meaning adults who have lost their instinct for learning instruct children not to throw snowballs for risk of getting wet, or of becoming injured. We learn best, and we remember far more vividly, through experience. In common with splashing, throwing a snowball can teach children a great deal. They not only learn about materials and physics, but they also develop social strategies and observe the actions and behaviors of others in an unfettered, and safe context.

In Future, Splash

As we grow older we increasingly concern ourselves with the consequence of the actions we take. If I do something, what will be its effect? This has great benefits as it assists us in making judgments about what will be to our benefit or disadvantage in the future. The downside is that considering consequences that are not hurtful can sometimes hamper our growth. I have therefore taken it upon myself to splash more in future, and I urge you to do the same...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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