Friday, March 7, 2008

Like a Child

Picasso is quoted as saying, "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." The return to a child's way of viewing the world (one that is childlike as opposed to childish) is a theme that other artists and theorists have explored as well. Viktor Shklovsky's notion of defamiliarization has to do with the way art can refresh our automatized ways of perceiving language and the world, something that's necessary when we stop being children and fall into routines. There's nothing sentimental about it: children apprehend the world in unfamiliar and interesting ways, and their observations and ways of thinking can be fascinating.

My five- and six-year-old children were recently asked to come up with a list of questions they were interested in trying to answer for our school district's science fair. Below are some of their responses:

    How do clocks know what time it is?
    How did people know what food is good to eat?
    How do our bodies move?
    How do people make paper?
    How do snakes slither?
    How do factories make jelly beans?
    Where does blood come from?
    How does the world spin?
    How do factories make paint?
    How do people make sticky things?
    Where does hardness come from?
    How did the sun get so much fire?
    How are factories made?
    How does the sun give you freckles?
    How do pencils write?
    How was the universe made?

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