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Scientific Language in Play

Updated: Aug 3, 2018

How children learn to use scientific language in play and in life.

I recently took my two children, Crawford (6) and Ellie (8), and my nephew, Hawken (9), to an indoor trampoline park. Amidst the fun, two amazing things happened:

  1. No one broke a bone (whew!).

  2. The way in which they communicated during their play was a demonstration of how scientific language used in schools today is shaping their social and problem-solving skills.

While watching them take on the “warped wall” (a curved wall obstacle that you part run/part climb/part jump up), I heard an exchange that I usually only hear in the classrooms of expert teachers. Ellie was struggling to get up the wall that my nephew has learned to scale with ease. I heard Hawken say to her, “Try one more time. I’ll watch again and give you feedback.” After intently watching her, he coached, “Try to jump on your last step up.”

Feedback after careful observation? I was so proud!

She tried a few more times unsuccessfully, then asked to watch him. After he scaled the wall a few times, I encouraged her to try again. Ellie responded, “Not yet, I’m still watching him to develop a strategy to help me get up.” After a few more passes, she said, “I’ve noticed he takes long strides. I’m going to space my steps when I run up to the wall.”

Developing a strategy from viewing a more experienced child? Is this the middle of summer or a classroom science activity?

I realized that they were communicating using accountable talk, improving athletic skills using methods of observation, and developing the use of muscles with scientific strategies. Were they taught this at home? Nope, this is language and learning techniques used in their classrooms at two (different) schools.

As they moved onto other obstacles, I thought about how these classroom methods had shaped Ellie and Hawken’s interactions. I also realized that since they go to different schools, are in different grades, and have different teachers, the common thread between their education experiences is the Florida standards. Their teachers have given them a gift that they open outside of the classroom! By implementing accountable talk, speaking and listening strategies, and peer feedback that are outlined in the Florida standards, teachers are shaping our students brains, communication skills, and peer interactions.

My last feeling was disappointment; my children won’t be returning to a traditional Florida classroom this year. Instead, they will start German school in August. However, I am reassured in knowing they will continue to use these skills, because even after the school year has ended and they are outside of a traditional academic space, Florida teachers and Florida standards have created skills allowing students to learn anywhere, even at a trampoline park in the middle of summer.

Developing Thoughts

  • I noticed that our children use academic language outside of school. I wondered how I can further promote academic dialogue at home.

  • I noticed that when I tried to insert myself into their conversation, Ellie and Hawken preferred to work towards the goal on their own. I wondered how I can encourage academic language without stifling conversation or meddling in their progress.

  • I noticed that on the car ride home, when I asked each of them to tell each other what they did well, both boys told Ellie they admired that she didn’t give up, even though she didn’t make it up the wall. I wondered how they had learned to value perseverance over success, since, although she never made it up the wall, she did successfully conquer other obstacles.


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