Lesson from Cormorants

Half through our walk around Boston’s Pleasure Bay, we took a short break to look at the Bay and Castle  Island.  Surprisingly, I did not  tell Robert what HE was seeing. Surprisingly, because usually I cannot help but to “enrich”  our walks with pointing or naming everything Robert should notice:  airplanes landing or taking off, motorboats, sailboats, and ferries; seagulls and cormorants;  people walking, running, biking, roller skating, swimming, children on the playground. There is so much to notice on Castle Island that it might be a great place to practice/teach/drill (?) joint attention.

The airplanes  flying over the bay almost every minute  offer the perfect opportunity for teaching pointing:

I stretched my arm. “Airplane”

I stretched Robert’s arm.  “Airplane”

Minute later, another plane.

I stretched my arm. “Airplane”

I stretched Robert’s arm.  “Airplane”

Again and again. I could repeat the sequence 30 times or more, but I usually took a long break after 5 times at the beginning of the stroll.  By the time we returned to our car, Robert and I pointed to airplanes maybe 5 more times. Over the few years Robert “noticed” seagulls and cormorants, dogs swimming and fetching sticks, blue blossoms of chicory and burrs of burdock plants.  I don’t think Robert mastered shared attention during those trips, but he certainly became more aware of his surroundings.

Later I used the trips to help Robert “remember” what he had seen on the Castle Island.  As we walked, I “helped” Robert noticing over and over three or four of the same things.

“What do people do at Pleasure Bay”

“People walk” “People run”.  People talk on the phones” , People swim”

Since many people walk, run, and talk on their phones, Robert had an ample opportunities to hear and repeat what the people did.  On the way home, in the car, we repeated a few times the phrases from our list.  At home, Robert wrote, what he remembered: “People walk, run, swim” A gesture, placing a hand by the ear, reminded Robert that the people also talk on their phones.

I have never planned teaching ahead of any of the trips.  The more someone has to learn, the more teaching opportunities the world presents.   I realized that when one day, Robert and I watched diving cormorants.  They floated on the water, dove for  quite a while only to  emerge in  different spots. What a great, alive illustration of concepts, “appear” and “disappear.”  A few weeks earlier, Robert encountered these two words in one of the vocabulary workbooks. I wasn’t sure if he grasped their meanings.  Diving cormorants showed Robert much better than I did what appearing and disappearing mean.

Almost every  excursion to Pleasure Bay was “enriched” by some sort of learning.

But yesterday, I did not tell Robert what HE noticed.  It was a beautiful day and sitting next to each other in silence was the best way to enjoy it.

And so we did.