Putting the Early in Early Childhood Education
How early is too early for early childhood education?
I’ll let you in on a secret—it’s a trick question. Because, as the saying goes, we are born learning! This common cliché is backed up by new scientific evidence emerging on what feels like a weekly basis demonstrating the incredible capacity of a baby’s brain.
For example, we now know that far before they can even make coherent sounds, a baby has already mastered the basic building blocks of language and has begun to develop a vocabulary of recognized words. Babies start learning before they emerge into the world. Once born, the most important (and energy-intensive) activity of their first five to six years of life is to build the tool that will enable them to spend the rest of their lives learning: their brans!
While I had always understood that babies were busy doing something, this image really clarified what that something was and how important it was.
And, more importantly for an architect, the extent to which this growth is impacted and influenced by the child’s environment. In the first few years of life a baby’s brain develops over 1,000 neuronal connections per second, building an inconceivably dense network.
As they move into the next phase of development, the baby’s brain begins to prune its neural pathways, reinforcing positive connections and deleting unproductive ones. This creates a rich and artfully crafted three-dimensional sculpture for thinking. It’s important to recognize the 3D nature of this work because it is not imaginary or made of pure energy: it is a solid, palpable (and visible) structure that can be observed and measured using magnetic resonance imaging.
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