Dr. Bill Atwood

Schools of learning

Children are naturally very curious. They will try to figure out how certain things work. When a baby ages just a few months and is able to crawl, that baby will move toward an object that attracts its attention.

After a few more months that baby will begin to make attempts at words. First are the meaningless sounds such as goo-goo and gaga but eventually the baby will figure out that there is a pattern to the sounds we make, and that baby will begin to make those sounds.

The toddlers begin to learn to walk and then they begin to play with objects and develop certain patterns for themselves with those objects. I watch as my great nephew Liam will set toys or ‘itty-bittys’ into groupings either by pairs such as the Finding Nemo set or the Wizard of Oz set.

Sometimes Liam places the groups by size or color of just into groupings of pairs or threesomes. That behavior is play for him, however, it is also learning. Educators have spoken of the value of play as a tremendous asset in the concept of education.

This Saturday some in this community will take time to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the opening of The Children’s Museum. The Museum has a loftier title, “The Children’s Museum of the Sierra,” however the rest of us simply call it “The Children’s Museum.”

What a treasure this place happens to be for our community.

Inside the walls are games, machines, devices, clothes, art objects, toys, dinosaurs, displays, vortex’s, wind machines, fire engine, a bank, and about 500 more items as well.

Science exploration and musical experiences await any child who visits. There are games that stretch the imagination of those little visitors and while they are having fun they are also learning.

Parents have the option of just watching or playing along with their child. Both experiences are wonderful as it is fun to make music with a child and it is equally fun to watch that child set up a maze for the ball to follow as it is pulled by gravity.

Oh the doodads that are inside that magical place.

They even have a throne room where many a local child has celebrated their birthday along with their friends who have had the run of the kingdom.

I think I want to celebrate my 70th birthday there in 2022 and have my friends bring checks to donate to the museum instead of buying me gifts.

This week we also observe the solemn graduation ceremonies at different schools. As students progress through the educational system we hold rituals to mark their endeavors. These include culmination ceremonies, promotion ceremonies, matriculation ceremonies, and finally the high school graduation.

As the high school class of 2017 at each of the area schools crosses the stages and moves the tassel from one side of the mortarboard to the other, it marks a special day in their lives but it represents a successful completion of a worthwhile achievement.

Research shows that a student with a high school diploma has a greater than 95% chance of never spending one single night as a homeless person. The research shows that when two high school graduates marry, that number improves to 98% of never facing a single night homeless. The diploma represents a great set of options for the graduate.

In this column I simply want to tie together the celebration of grads and doodads. Since our high school seniors are 17 or 18 years of age, and the Children’s Museum has been around two to three years prior to the birth of this year’s grads, many of those grads played with the museums doodads and began the educational process in a fun place and manner.

I wonder how many times a future valedictorian dug for the fossils at the museum? Did the fire truck excite a child into wanting a career saving us from a burning building?

Will a local bank hire a graduate who caught the “banking bug” from the Yosemite Bank exhibit? Did the gravity wall intrigue a budding engineer?

This week we will congratulate the students on their achievements and we will offer praises to the local high schools for the great education offered to these grads. Let’s be sure to not forget the preschool and kindergarten teacher along with the primary teachers who taught many basics.

Let’s remember the middle school educators who expanded the horizons of the students in preparation for high school learning.

The schools are charged with the creation of an informed and enlightened citizenry, and our local schools do that job very well.

Included in that educational process just happens to be a small and dedicated staff at the Children’s Museum who helped pique the interests of future scholars by creating a place filled with doodads.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 and to the dedicated volunteers of “The Doodad School of Learning,” our very own Children’s Museum of the Sierra.