Grier: Make summer a curious one for kids

Published: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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The research is clear. Children who are curious and explore the world around them fare better at school and relationships, and – ultimately – are more successful in life.

Yet, as children go through life, it’s easy for their curiosity to be stunted. A regimented school day, schedules, tests and grades all have a way of limiting a child’s natural curiosity.

Of course, we all want our children to be successful in life. So, how can you keep their curiosity alive? First, it’s important to help your children discover activities that are meaningful to them. Expose them to as many experiences as possible. Make note of those things that inspire novelty and excitement. Second, select recreation that gives children a sense of competence and accomplishment. We all have a fundamental need to feel competent. When children can complete a task and feel competent, it increases the likelihood they will want to continue learning and exploring in the future. Third, give children some autonomy in their activities. Find activities that allow them to make decisions and choose between alternatives.

At the most basic level, it’s important to engage your children in projects that require active learning. With active learning, children learn by doing – they manipulate, move, listen, taste, build, take apart and create. Research shows that active learning promotes much better recall, enjoyment and understanding. Active learning allows children autonomy and provides a sense of accomplishment – the keys to fostering their curiosity.

Summer is an ideal time to engage your children in active learning activities. Now in its fourth year, the Xcelerate summer enrichment program at Waubonsee Community College offers a wide range of active learning opportunities for youth ages 4 to 14.

Some of the most popular Xcelerate offerings include science and technology. In the Science Xplosion camp, children build rockets and roller coasters, collect and examine bugs, conduct experiments and learn how to apply all sorts of scientific principles. Robotics, of course, is also hugely popular. In both LEGO Robotics and LEGO Robot Revenge, kids use special LEGO kits to design and build a variety of robots.

Gaming camps, such as Game Master and Game Master Pro, are always in demand and offer children and young adults a hands-on opportunity to create, play and share their own video games. Adventures in Movie Making says it all. Campers experience the full spectrum of what is required to make a movie from directing, lighting and operating the camera to editing and sharing the final product.

Xcelerate always has something new and different to stimulate your child’s curiosity. New options this year include horseback riding, ukulele and first responders camps. If you have preschool-age children (ages 4 to 6), you’ll want to take advantage of our camps just for preschoolers. Offered at both the Sugar Grove and Aurora campuses, these camps actively engage children in the concepts behind physics, chemistry, engineering, geology, astronomy and even the arts.

This year, Xcelerate your child’s imagination, learn more and register at www.waubonsee.edu/xcelerate.

• Doug Grier is dean for community education at Waubonsee Community College. Contact him at editorial@kcchronicle.com. The Waubonsee Voices column runs the third Wednesday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle.

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