To the Editor:

I was walking through the Children’s Center of New Milford one cold winter day a couple of years ago, one of those winters when the snow was up to your knees and the thermometer struggled to get into the 20s for weeks at a time.

I came upon a classroom where there were two large tubs on the table filled with snow. There was a large plastic bag on the top of the snow in each tub and in one of the bags was a second smaller bag filled with some whitish glop I couldn’t identify.

This was a class of 5-year-olds, and I stood back and watched as the teacher invited each student to the table and asked, “What is your hypothesis?”

That’s right, “hypothesis.” How old were you when you first heard that word?

She wrote down each answer then asked, “What do you expect will be the result of this experiment?” and she wrote down that answer, too.

Then one by one the students put their hands in the bags, reported the result, and explained if those results did or did not support their hypothesis.

I was watching the scientific method practiced by 5-year-olds!

Naturally, I got in the back of the line so I could do the experiment myself. The hand in the bag directly on the snow felt cold immediately while the hand on the white glop didn’t.

OK, what’s going on here? The teacher told me her class was studying bears and they got to the point where bears were eating everything they could find so they could put on weight.

They did this, so the book said, because the fat would help keep them warm through the winter. They decided to see if that was true, and this experiment was designed to find that out.

The white glop was actually lard (animal fat), and what her students and I discovered was that the fat did in fact serve as insulation. What a terrific way to learn!

I also realized this experience epitomized what I think early educational programs need to do — encourage curiosity and develop confidence. Children need to see the world as a place filled with fascinating puzzles and themselves as the people who can arrange those pieces into a clear picture.

Encouraging curiosity and fostering confidence are just two of the things the Children’s Center does so well.

Bill Quinnell

Board member

Children’s Center of New Milford