When my kids were babies, I remember watching them observe the world around them in awe. A mere water bottle would entertain them while I ate dinner. Turning it over and over in their hand, they inspected every inch of the label, how it crinkled when pushed on, and how the ripples felt on their little hand. I remember Caleb being especially drawn to tags. He would flick it back and forth with his finger, put it in his mouth, take it out, look at it again and repeat the whole process numerous times.
Children’s observations don’t stop there. They are quick to observe the petals on a flower, colors of the hummingbird, sounds of mockingbird and so much more. I think in our “adult” world sometimes we lose this art of carefully and slowly observing things around us. Maybe it’s the Facebook and Pinterest phenomena that has us addicted to fast news-feeds and updates. Somewhere in there I have lost the luxury to sit on the grass and inspect a dandelion the way my kids can. I think other things are more important…
Observation is one of those areas that is un-measurable, yet highly important. I went to Austin with my mom for a teacher conference she was participating in. At our last breakfast a lady joined us who was a writing instructor. She and my mom were discussing the importance of Art (my mom is an Art Education professor) in the classroom and in everyday life. The lady was sharing about the importance of observation. She said there are major crimes solved by people skilled in observation. I thought about the old movie “Colombo”. This unsophisticated, cigar smoking “investigator” looked like nothing more than the drunk down the street. He would look at a crime scene photo and notice something missing in the sequence, or something added. Something small, and seemingly insignificant, like a tennis racket would catch his eye. He would then began to investigate everything that had to do with a tennis racket. For instance, he might visit the court, observe who played, how they held their racket, what color it was, what the case looked like, how they zipped it up, and where they went after practice. Something in all those small observations, eventually led him directly to the criminals back door.
Lets think of how Observation shows up in the subjects we study. Think about Science. Is observation required with experiments? We observe this ingredient changes while this one remains steady. What about observing nature around us…what size a robin’s eggs are, how many legs a caterpillar is, how many dots each ladybug has and that each one is different.
In History, we observe patterns, wars, heroic acts, and begin to connect the dots of cause and effect. In Math, we also observe patterns, combinations, and variables.
Observing artwork causes us to sit and stare, engaging our mind into what the artist was thinking at that time and the picture he is communicating. Music can lead our emotions to sadness, joy or contemplation while we notice the different instruments, harmony, pitches, and tempo.
Then there’s Writing. One of my favorites. Open a book and you are thrown into observing the style of the author. Poems, nursery rhymes, Aesop’s Fables and short stories like Peter Rabbit fill our children’s mind with great words and mental pictures. It gives their mind something to chew on.
Observation. So go and hold that water bottle, watch the water slosh around and hear the plastic as it crinkles with your touch!
Putting it In Our Own Words,