Monday, April 08, 2013

Giant Foods and Social Development

 A couple months ago we took the kids to the Bogotá Children's Museum. The highlight of the visit was the Giant Foods room, with giant sculpted fruits and vegetable arranged as slides and little rooms (if you look closely you can see Valerie at the top under the papaya).

This room was so fun.
Overall, the Children's Museum here was really different from the ones we've been to in the US, and it made me reflect on different cultural patterns that teach and emphasize different priorities to children.

In the US, there are a plethora of "stations" or activity centers designed to be highly interactive and hands-on, with all kinds of different themes. Some emphasize careers, others arts, others nature and life sciences. Kids are supposed to have an adult around keeping track of them (you don't just drop them off and leave), but within the four walls of the museum they are free to explore, to choose the activities that most interest them, and to rotate from one activity to the next as the spirit moves them.

The one in Harrisonburg is fantastic, with loads of different things to do that fascinate the kids, and with a local focus that highlights Valley industries and interests.

The Children's Museum in Bogota seems to have a similar range of activities, but the structure was totally different. Children are sent through in groups, with a guide, on a schedule, to pre-determined activity sites. They are geared to specific age ranges and the guides do a lot of play-work with the kids. When we went, our group was "los Delfines" - the Dolphins. Adults accompanying the kids went along and participated as well.

We were a little late so we missed the first activity, but the second one was in a room shaped like a giant mouth and we learned about brushing and flossing teeth. This made a big impact on my kids and they still talk about the video they saw there in which a boy gets cavities and cries because his teeth hurt. (Last night Gabriel stuck a finger in his mouth, looked at me mischievously, and said "I touched the yucky germs!")

As we walked through the enormous building, the guide led the kids in little games, cheers, and fun activities. To get to the giant foods room, we went through a "space ship" with black light and everything.

 (Here you can see just the corner of the giant cheese block to the right of the milk, and the edge of the giant hollow fish that was another little room to run around in. That's Valerie on the slide.)

The guide had a pretty hard time in this room keeping the kids focused as he talked about good nutrition - it wasn't long until they were running around going down the slides and exploring the giant fish. But our kids led the charge, used as they are to a more independent style of playing. 

And that's what got me thinking. The Colombian approach is consistent with what I've seen throughout Latin America - placing higher value on being part of a group, participating in activities together that build a sense of group identity and cohesion, and using that as a platform for learning, in contrast to the US style of fostering independence and rewarding curious exploring. The Colombian approach also integrated generations together more closely, as parents and grandparents were recruited and included in the activities and conversations. 

It made me very curious to see how schooling in Colombia will shape my kids' social orientations and preferences. 

1 comment:

Becky said...

I found this post fascinating. Who would have thought a visit to a Children's Museum would offer so much insight into the culture. Looking foward to hearing how school affects the way your kids play and interact.