The human brain is a fascinating subject. I can’t get too much information about what scientists are finding to be “the way we learn and remember”. As an early childhood educator, the little “sponges” around me have me in awe.
I remember showing my daughter her first glimpse of a butterfly in the wild. She was about 18 months old and quite a chatterbox. She returned to the same spot…same flower, the next day and asked, “Butterfly?”. My first parental reaction was, “Wow! I have a genius on my hands!” Then the truth grabbed me. Of course she’d think about butterflies in that spot. That’s the only place her brain has ever witnessed one.
Adults have so many more experiences and, therefore, filter and connect images and ideas in a “wasteful” way. We have to cast off some of our information in order to keep a tidy collection. Kids are that wonderful “clean slate” that we adore. It’s no wonder that kids can learn multiple languages far more easily than adults. They have no competing categories or files in their brains to interfere with their memorization efforts.
Keeping this in mind, I have tried to make up little games with my granddaughter in order to teach her to notice and identify birds by their songs. I must have done this instinctively with my day care babies because I was stopped in the grocery store by a few parents and grandparents who pointed the “blame” for their nature walk interruptions on me.
“He just froze and said, Hear that Grandma? That’s Mr. Blue Jay singing.”
“She kept shushing me as we walked so she could listen for the birds.”
I just love hearing such “complaints”!
As for my granddaughter and me, we make up our own little phrases for familiar bird songs. I don’t know if there are different bird dialects but sometimes the professional translations just don’t fit the sounds that we hear. The only one that seems universal is the Chickadee. “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” is our translation too…but we also know there is a sound that Chickadees make other than their name. We think it says “JEAN-nee”.
Eastern Phoebes are our favorite. Their first part sounds something like “Phoebe…Phoebe” but it ends with “She DID it!”. At least that is our own label and it always makes us laugh.
When we look through books, I will point out the birds and reminder her of our own game and the sounds. Recently, I pointed out a Nuthatch in a book and reminded her of that bird who’s always laughing at us from the trees.
I cannot emphasize enough what a wonderful world we can open up to kids when we teach them to listen and notice what too many adults have no time for.
- Reference Books and the Curious (sillyfrogsusan.wordpress.com)
- Vol. 2, No. 3 – The White-Breasted Nuthatch (leesbird.com)
- A record season for counting birds in Saranac Lake (northcountrypublicradio.org)
- Bird-watching, even in January (toledoblade.com)