Throughout childhood, children go through various stages in development in which foster their thinking, behaviors and reasoning. Each developmental stage has its own unique set of milestones in which children are expected to reach. In my 8th grade science class, I created a wind powered car lab in which I believe met the developmental stages of an adolescent. My wind power car lab activity aided in my students’ social, emotional and cognitive development.
When looking at an adolescents social and emotional development there are various trends you should notice in their behavior and characteristics. Socially and emotionally, adolescents need peer interaction to help build self-identity. The American Psychological Association states, “Peer groups serve a number of important functions throughout adolescence, providing a temporary reference point for a developing sense of identity” (American Psychological Association 2002). During the activity, I seen students in every group sharing their ideas and thoughts for the group car and giving different reasoning for their ideas. All students in each group were able to listen to different viewpoints and reasonings to come to an agreement as to how the group wind power car should be built. When peers interact with other peers, they are separating from family and beginning to understand how they are different from family members and develop their own thinking and reasoning. The Institute for Human Services for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program explains that young adolescents between the age of 12 and 14 are psychologically distancing themselves parents (Institute for Human Services for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program 2007). Students were able to freely design their own wind powered cars without the input of guardians or my assistance. Working in peer groups to complete my wind power car lab activity gave my students full creative freedom and aided in their social and emotional development by increasing self-identity.
The wind power car activity also aided in the cognitive development of my students. At the adolescent stage, children’s problem solving, and critical thinking skills are blossoming. Adolescents are often question and challenge ideas and concepts. The American Psychological Association states, “From the concrete, black-and-white thinkers they appear to be one day, rather suddenly it seems, adolescents become able to think abstractly and in shades of gray. They are now able to analyze situations logically in terms of cause and effect and to entertain hypothetical situations and use symbols, such as in metaphors, imaginatively” (American Psychological Association 2002). In the wind power lab, my students challenged each other’s ideas and concepts when coming up with one collective group car from everyone’s individual ideas. Students asked each other for explanations as to why they added certain body structures to their car. The elimination of ideas process also increased student cognitive development by allowing children to think logically. The Institute for Human Services for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program defines thinking logically as, “identify and reject hypotheses or possible outcomes based on logic” (Institute for Human Services for the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program 2007). As students created there final group model, they used logical thinking to reject and or approve ideas that each group member had for creating a wind power car. When similar structures, such as adding wheels or a sail, were made in the students’ individual design, group members agreed on the importance and included it in their group model. Structures such as tails and doors were not included in the group model. Students were able to improve their cognitive development by using critical thinking and problem-solving skills to find the most effective ways to use lab materials to build their group wind power car model.
In conclusion, my wind power car lab activity aided in my students’ social, emotional and cognitive development. From my reflection, I have learned that although my students vary widely in physical development, their social, emotional and cognitive development are very similar. Adolescents need activities that will help them in self-identity. Activities in which students have the opportunity to interact with peers and self-regulate give students the since of maturity and responsibility. Going fourth, I plan to incorporate more student lead activities into my lessons and allow students to share their voice and opinions to not only aid in personal growth but the growth of peers within my classroom.