I went to the National Museum of Math last Sunday. My objective was to observe a child, preferably a child attending pre-KG. As I visited the museum, I found that the place was somewhat crowded with a lot of tourists and enthusiasts. It was a bright day, and the atmosphere was really good there. Within the first 15 minutes, I spotted a girl child who was just over three years. I decided her as my subject.
She was an active Caucasian girl with sparkling eyes. She seemed to be curious about all the sights around. She was occasionally communicating verbally to her caregivers. I found that they were an English speaking family, as I observed closely. She was accompanied by her father mother, an elder brother, and grandparents. Her father used to hold her most of the times, whereas occasionally she wanted to walk on the floor as well. I followed them to watch and evaluate how the small girl would enjoy the attractions inside, as the family entered the museum.
Initially, since the area was crowded, the girl was found confused. She had perplexed expression on her face. As the family entered the museum, the elder members of the family seemed to be excited about the offerings inside the museum. The National Museum of Math has many attractions that are activity oriented. Many exhibits offer hands-on experience to visitors regarding the math concepts.
The staff at the museum explained the concepts to the adults; however, the young girl was more interested in the entertainment aspects. Her parents then allowed her to have a ride on a tricycle, which had square wheels. This was really entertaining for her, and I found a smile on her face for the first time. Her brother helped her to identify the exhibits, and she felt comfortable in the company of her family. I further proceeded in observing her based on various aspects and to reach conclusions about what she thought about the visuals that she saw around.
Body Language / Gestures
The girl was at first confused as she was in new surroundings. The crowded setting might have added to this. However, when she was allowed to use the rides and equipment, she felt happy and felt entertained. She walked all over the museum hall seeing the exhibits and rides. More grown up children were using interesting rides and solving math puzzles and geometric creations. She closely observed all the exhibits and even tried to touch and feel a few of them.
As I observed her communication with caregivers, I found that she used verbal as well as non-verbal communication methods. She was frequently using words like ‘please’, ‘yes’, ‘no’ etc. She had limited vocabulary; however, she was successful in communicating her requirements and feelings using the limited vocabulary. She used to grab attention and then say the sentences and words. She also tried to repeat the same phrases again and again till the caregivers verbally acknowledged her.
Most of her verbal communications were using three to four-word phrases and sentences. As I maintained an eye contact with her, she occasionally glanced at me, and we exchanged smiles. When I was standing close to the girl’s family, I greeted the girl and asked, “How are you?” She replied with the phrase, “I am fine.” On the other hand, her caretakers were also able to identify what she was saying. She even used words to explain what she saw in the museum. She used sentences like, “That is a red car”, “See that black round!”
Comfort with Language
Even though she had limited vocabulary, she was comfortably communicating her needs. When she was thirsty, she told her mother that she needs water. Her mother understood it and gave her water. She was eager to know more about the exhibits and most of the time she was asking her caregivers about the exhibits. She repeated the same question several times to ensure that her caregivers could understand her. She seemed to be more comfortable communicating with her mother and grandfather.
The words that she used were few. During the two hours time that I watched her, she might have used less than fifty words. However, the limited vocabulary was not affecting the effectiveness of her communication. She used words like yes, no, please, what, who, know, tell, I, far, near, small, big, etc. Many of the words were not used in the correct situations. However, she managed to communicate well using the available set of vocabulary.
Her father and brother were engaged in understanding details about the exhibits. However, her grandfather was patient enough to answer all her questions. She was eagerly listening to him and kept on watching his facial expressions and lip movements. She also looked at the exhibits about which her grandfather was talking.
She also gave utmost attention to a staff member of the museum who explained details about an exhibit to the family. I was sure that she was not grasping any of the concepts. Still she tried to listen to what the staff was saying. It seems that she demonstrated excellent listening skills.
Based on the observation, the caregiver could better support the child to develop her linguistic and cognitive ability by slightly modifying their behavioral patterns. Participatory learning by increasing verbal communication with the child is needed to develop her vocabulary. Maintaining an eye contact with her and clearly articulating the name of objects and shapes that they saw in the museum would have made the visit much more entertaining for her. The family was more curious about the exhibits and ignored the child at many instances. The child should have been offered an opportunity to touch and feel items to develop a kinesthetic learning.
National Museum of Mathematics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 04, 2016, from http://momath.org/