Age-Appropriate Curriculum Doesn’t Have to Be

I enjoy watching Blue’s Clues. I’m not ashamed to admit this, either. I started watching Blue’s Clues when I was a nanny five years ago., and was absolutely fascinated with how presented so many topics. Topics that would be taboo in a Texas classroom, where I hold teaching certificates, were simple and creative play time to Steve and Blue. I fell in love with the show immediately.

In a well-crafted, thoroughly tested manner, Blue’s Clues is able to present topics spanning every academic area, allowing the audience to explore right alongside Blue and Steve. Letters, numbers, colors, civics, fractions, music. They’re all there, in bright colors and pre-school friendly shapes, drawing the audience into Blue’s world.

My favorite episodes, though, are the science episodes. I’ve spent several years now engaged in informal science education, and these episodes just validate my existence sometimes. Blue has grown plants and taken care of her pet turtle Turquoise. Some of the other characters have made predictions, tested the prediction, and reported on the result. Through Blue-Skidoo, a charming little creature named Windy has helped Steve explore seasons.

There has even been a day and night activity.

This is important, because day and night has been a bone of some contention in the Texas Science Curriculum. I can only hope the problem has now been resolved, but it was pretty odd for a bit there. Day and night were once part of the second grade curriculum. A bit late in my opinion, but asking a seven year old to accept that the earth spins and then be able to clearly demonstrate understanding probably is easier than asking a five year old to create a report on the topic.

However, a few years ago it was moved to the seventh grade curriculum. I was horrified. During one of my field experiences during teach prep, I taught day and night to a kindergarten science lab in an at-risk school rather successfully. And I was expected to accept that day and night wouldn’t be taught until seventh grade? I was furious.

Shortly after this, the state’s Earth Science Specialist came to speak to one of my graduate classes. I asked her why this change had happened, and she told me that children were not emotionally ready to cope with knowing about the rotation of the earth until they were twelve, and that I had inflicted serious damage on my kindergarten students and any student who had set foot in a planetarium by teaching it earlier. Again, I was completely mortified, and she was quite serious.

In my experience, there are only a handful of topics that require a certain level of maturity or prerequisite knowledge in order to make learning possible. The rest can be broken down and bundled into chunks that, when designed for the target age group, can make learning not only possible but even a little bit relevant and fun.

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