How the Lights Turned On
or a Vivid "Hands-on Experience"


I'll call him Harold Hayes which was not his actual name.

The regular kindergarten teachers conducted my training program with the children in Head Start. When one needed a substitute teacher, I taught my 20 minute program for her on that day.

As I asked the children to introduce themselves, Harold smiled shyly and let out a soft sound "Haaaaa, haaaaa."

I said, "I didn't quite catch your name. What's that again?"

He repeated, "Haaaaa, haaaaa."

I felt the five-year-old boy was really trying to answer the question. I asked another child, "What's his name?"

She said, "Harold Hayes."

I smiled and said, "Hi Harold. I'm glad to meet you." Then, I asked the next child's name.

The similarities and differences studied that day involved artificial and real objects: flowers, fruit, crackers, etc. Little Harold grabbed an artificial grape! Lickety-split! He popped it into his mouth and chomped down on it.

I gasped. The grape flew out faster than it went in. I didn't have time to tell him anything.

As the plastic spewed from his mouth, the other children looked like they were thinking: Oooo. He's in big trouble.

"That's all right," I said. "Just keep spitting and don't swallow." I patted him very gently on the back as I thought, Dear Lord, I hope I don't see blood!

Looking back on this, I think he appreciated the reassurance that it was all right to spit, but I didn't really need to tell him not to swallow! He did the right thing instinctively. I gave him some water and asked him to rinse his mouth and spit again into the drinking fountain. The whole class followed us into the hall to the drinking fountain. It was fine for them to follow. At least, I knew where they were and what they were doing. There was no blood.

When we settled down in the classroom, I asked, "Tell me something, Harold. How is an artificial grape different from a real grape?"

Instantly, he whispered, "Dey show don't taste like."

I said to the shy boy, "That's a very good answer. I think you know more about how they taste than anyone in the room. I never tasted one." I looked at the other children and asked, "Have you tasted a plastic grape?"

"No," they answered.

I smiled and said, "Harold, you know more about how they taste than anyone else in this room."

He beamed.

Then I said, "Although that was a great answer, we are giving lots of answers to how things are alike and how they are different. Tell me some more ways they are different."

He started slowly but gained confidence and speed.

Then I said, "That's very good. I can't think of any more differences. Can anyone else?"

No one had any suggestions. So I asked, "Harold, how are they alike?"

Instantly, he replied with confidence, "Hit show fool me."

I smiled and said, "I didn't mean for it to fool you enough that you tasted it, and I'm glad you are OK. Now tell me how they are alike. How did it fool you?"

He came up with every similarity that I knew. I guess you could call this a vivid hands-on or teeth-on experience. I do recommend sticking with hands-on rather than teeth-on for plastic.

Control and experimental groups were in Project Head Start. Before the training program, his scoress were the lowest. After the training, his scores were the highest!