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Quirky Kids in All Their Glory


Helping Young Minds Take Flight


Let The Fun Begin, with Science!


The Science of Play


Pulling the Plug on Programmed Learning


Out of the Classroom and Into the Woods


Nature's Grammar


Mother Nature Strikes the Balance


School's Out, Let the Learning Begin!


Bringing Science Home


The Natural Child in a Digital World


Science Nearly Extinct in Bay Area Schools


"What If?" Science: Turning a Science Fair Project into an Experiment


Choosing the Best Camp for Your Child


Getting Lost in the Great Indoors


Sarah Shaffer on making Nobel winners out of science campers


Quirky Kids in All Their Glory by Sarah Shaffer

Quirky Kids in All Their Glory

By Sarah Shaffer

Albert Einstein once said, "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." One of the best parts of running science and nature programs for children is getting to witness firsthand the endless array of possibilities our kids offer the world. Some are fish. Some are squirrels. Each one has a unique combination of traits. Each one has the potential to contribute something amazing. If we want these youngsters to grow up happily confident in their own talents, it's up to the adults in the crowd to make sure we're not forcing squirrels to swim.

Those of us who are blessed with quirky kids, either in the classroom or at the breakfast table, know that they present greater challenges for the adults entrusted with their care than children who fit easily into the mold. Engaging with kids who confound our expectations can be frustrating. Is there a parent alive who hasn't at some point wished her quirky son never had to be nagged to do to do his homework and could, like the kid next door, effortlessly come home with straight-A report cards? Perhaps your child is the one for whom academic achievement comes easily; do you sometimes wish she demonstrated comparable skill on the soccer field, or in social situations?

The trick is to forget about the achievement arms race with friends and neighbors. The trick is to see and celebrate that which makes every child unique. Your little squirrel may not be able swim but just stand back and gasp in delight as she bounds her way through the leafy canopy. E. O. Wilson, the famous naturalist, was seven when his parents divorced. He sounds to me like the classic quirky kid. Finding solace in the outdoors and fearing that his wild ways might be curtailed, he didn't tell anyone when an incident with a fish hook injured his eye. The delay in medical treatment left him with 20/10 sight. Did his parents worry about how their solitary little boy, who thereafter spent his days scrutinizing ants, might turn out? If so, they were the ones who lacked vision.

School vacations are upon us. Seize upon the opportunity to give your children respite from standardized expectations. Find a place where they can be allowed to stop trying quite so hard to be what others think they ought to be and where they can discover the joy to be had in nurturing their own best selves. And when they come back to you filled with excitement at having found a way to express some special and wonderful thing that feels like theirs alone, take a moment to consider how fortunate you are to have such a gloriously quirky child in your life.

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Sarah Shaffer, award-winning educator, has been offering unique science and nature programs for children, parents, and teachers for over twenty years. She takes children outdoors all summer at This Land is Your Land Summer Day Camp. More information about Sarah's Science can be found at www.sarahscience.com.


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