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Collecting Can Motivate Children To Learn

Aug 08, 2010 | By Harvey Craft

Children are curious about a lot of things as the world expands for them. They bring home things and are full of questions. Don't discourage it! Collections teach!

Children get great pleasure from bringing newly discovered things home. Their rooms sometimes accumulate a diversity of natural wonders – rocks, acorns, bugs dead and alive, etc. Discovery of new things is pleasing to most people, but to children it’s special because there are so many new things.

How Collections Can Motivate Science Learning


Collecting is a vital part of many sciences – especially earth and life sciences. Scientists rely on specimens for examination and comparisons and for taxonomy – the practice of classifying things according to similarities and differences. All living things are classified, as are rocks and minerals, even subatomic particles.

Science education is centered on the understanding and application of what scientists do. These process skills are the foundation of the scientific method of investigation which forms the very backbone of how scientists add to the knowledge base of scientific truths.

The Science Process Skills are Complemented by Collecting

In addition to classification mentioned above, the science process skills are:

  • Observation. Obviously, children must observe to collect. It is important to understand that observations can be made with any of the senses. Although collecting generally is most appealing to sight, children need to learn that things feel different and sound different when tapped or dropped. Tastes of different objects may be different, too, but tasting collections is not recommended for safety reasons.
  • Communication. Observations lead to descriptions that must be communicated verbally or by writing. Parents can simply ask their child to describe the collected object. What is its color? Describe its texture, etc. Language skills are strengthened by improved communication.
  • Measurement. Physical dimensions and how to measure them can be introduced to preschoolers. Measurement also helps reinforce math skills and the ability to describe the world generally is enhanced. Measurement can involve weight, densities, etc., depending on the interest and ability of the child.
  • Inference. Inferences are made in an attempt to explain some aspect of an object. Why do different types insects live in different places? Why do leaves change color? How to rocks found in a riverbed get smooth? The correct answer is not really that important in the early stages. What is important is that children get accustomed to mentally designing explanations and verbalizing them. Listening to inferences and helping children correct them is a good way for kids to get used to participating in class discussions without being afraid to make an error.
  • Prediction. A prediction is a statement about the future based on observation about past events. Accurate predictions enable children to interact more successfully with their environment because they can tell what is going to happen before it does. When a child has an idea about where to go to find specimens for a collection he is predicting that whatever it is will be in that place.

Some Suggested Collections for Children

Seashell collectionAge is a major determining factor for a proper collection. Children need to have some ability to apply basic organization skills. If parents can provide enthusiasm about the activity and spend time with their child, six years is old enough to begin, certainly seven. As children learn to read and write the ability to maintain a collection is enhanced considerably. If children cannot keep up with their collection or if they might want to play with the collected items instead of acquiring them, then put it off until later.

Most children love rocks – especially colorful ones. They are readily obtained at souvenir shops and museums for prices starting at less than a dollar each. Sea shells offer another opportunity for beautiful and interesting collections, and many can be picked up on the seashore. Feathers from various birds can be colorful and fun to identify. Taking feathers from “road kills” is not recommended without adult supervision. Zoos officials sometimes will cooperate in providing feathers from bird exhibits.

Sport cards collection

If a child would rather collect something of a non-science category the educational results can be just as beneficial. Sports cards have numbers and simple sentences. Postage stamps can lead to strengthened geography skills and help with teaching about money. Aside from the learning that collections encourage, children enjoy the attention from relatives and time spent with parents.

Collecting is an easy and natural way to involve children in early learning and can provide a lifelong hobby. Collections reinforce science process skills that virtually all students eventually encounter in school. Various other academic subjects can be introduced depending on what is being collected. Collecting also provides the child with something to do when circumstances don’t allow outside activities. Children get pleasure from the time spent with parents discussing and organizing their hobby.

About the author:
Harvey Craft
 is a retired educator and former principal, with extensive experience in teaching grades six through to twelve. He is NBPTS certified in Adolescent Science and now spends his time in educational research, consulting, and freelance writing.
Click here to contact or read more articles by Harvey Craft.

Tags : children, kids, learning, collection, collecting, science, education, process skills

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