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Study: Children Learn Like Scientists

Alexandra Grablewski

A study by scientists at the University of California, Berkley found that young children learn using the same methods scientists use: by forming and testing hypotheses, reports Popular Science.

The lead author of the study and psychology professor Alison Gopnik drew comparisons to the way children play and how scientists test theories: "“Everyday playing is a kind of experimentation—it's a way of experimenting with the world, getting data the way that scientists do and then using that data to draw new conclusions,” Gopnik said.

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In the study, children played with a setup that made sounds and lit up if the pieces were lined up correctly. In order to make the setup work, kids tried different combinations and, most significantly, changed their guesses based on their previous attempts.

Gopnik said this goes against the academic learning environment children are placed in from an early age. "What we need to do to encourage these children to learn is not to put them in the equivalent of school, tell them things, or give them reading drills or flash cards or so forth," she said. "What we need to do is put them in a safe, rich environment where these natural capacities for exploration, for testing, for science, can get free rein."

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Do you agree with Gopnik's conclusion? Do you think early childhood education is too academic? Tell us in the comments.