Teaching kids is hard. At least for me. I taught four lectures on comets to an all day Space Camp for ten-year olds a few months ago, and it took me one lecture just to get warmed up. I may not have had the best time in public schools growing up, but good teachers have my undying respect. I think it takes skill to be a good teacher, one that I hope to develop.

The following is from a brochure I got from somewhere, either my local Space Grant Consortium office or an American Astronomical Society meeting, entitled Sharing Science With Children: A Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers, published by the North Carolina Museum of Life and Science. One particular section deals with the psychological capabilities of children depending upon their age. I suspect that anybody with kids will read this and say "Well, duh", but being childless I found it rather enlightening. It certainly jibes with my limited classroom and personal experience, but as with most generalizations probably doesn't always match a given child's age or grade level. Furthermore, teaching kids probably also requires a healthy sense of empathy, and genuine interest both in the students and in what you're teaching.

I should probably add that "Non-commercial distribution is encouraged" appears in the brochure, and that the contact address is: Georgiana M. Searles, Director of Education, North Carolina Museum of Life and Science, PO Box 15190, Durham, NC 27704.


Thinking and Learning Characteristics of Young People

Early elementary (K-2, age 5-7)
As a thinker...

  • Learns through manipulating objects.
  • Believes what he or she sees.
  • Can't trace steps back from a conclusion.
  • Sees parts, not the whole.
  • Does not understand that making physical changes in an object does not change its amount.
As a learner...
  • Is expansive, adventurous, curious, eager to learn, energetic, always in motion, loud, and emotional -- has mood swings.
  • Wants to please adults
  • Has difficulty controlling impulses and regulating behavior.
  • Is very "me" centered. Seeks attention. Loves praise.
  • Likes to work in groups, but will need assistance.
  • Can sit still and listen 10-15 minutes; needs frequent change of pace.

Late Elementary (Grade 3-5, age 8-10)
As a thinker...

As a learner...

Middle Grades (Grade 6-8, age 11-13)
As a thinker...

As a learner...

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