When I grow up

Exploring how young children explore their interests

November 16, 2022

Siya Gupta (6)

Armed with a magnifying glass and a notepad, Gupta began digging. Her family had just driven up the Rocky Mountains in Denver, but rather than taking in the scenery, her attention was fixated on a dirt mound twice her size. Clawing into the ground with fierce determination, she revealed a white slab in the ground and labeled it as a dinosaur bone. She remembered from a book she previously read that an abundance of dinosaurs had roamed the Rocky Mountains, making it a suitable place to find the bones of one. 

“I could not pick it up so I just showed it,” Gupta said. “[My dad] wanted me to [find] more fossils, so I kept digging but I couldn’t find one more.” 

Ever since she had learned about dinosaurs in school, Gupta became an aspiring paleontologist, immediately interested in the history of dinosaurs. Through reading books from the library, she has amassed fun facts about all kinds of dinosaurs, her favorite being the T-Rex. Her dad has helped her through the process by writing questions such as the age and type of the dinosaurs and to enforce her understanding.

“My dad used to put questions on the back [of a page],” Gupta said. “If I’m confused — because that was the first time I was learning — I would turn it around to just see a little hint and then turn it around so I can figure it out.”

When Gupta was learning about states and capitals, her dad would also give her a sheet of paper with questions about the capitals of states, their primary industries and other defining questions to help with her memorization. Whenever she gets stuck, such as when she forgot the capital of Hawaii and the volcanoes, she would search up the answer online. Reading and researching has helped enforce Gupta’s learning. Just last week, when Gupta went to the dinosaur section of an exploratory museum, she was able to identify what a mystery dinosaur was solely based on its bones. 

“There were magnifying glasses there to put them around your neck and to identify what dinosaur they were,” Gupta said. “So I [said] it was a T-Rex and I was correct. I had books about T-Rexes, and I saw the bone head of it and I remembered that they were the same.” 

She hopes to continue reading more books on dinosaurs in the future. She excitedly recounted multiple fun facts from the backstory of the length of T-Rexes’ arms to the bone structure of the spikes growing on the back of Stegosauruses. The dinosaur Gupta believes she would get along with the most is the Apatosaurus.

“They’re not meat eaters, they’re vegetarians, so they just eat leaves,” Gupta said. “I would even climb on to [their] backs because they’re really gentle.”


Vishnu Puthenpurayil (11)

Based on his research, Puthenpurayil claims that in a matchup between a king cobra and a mongoose, the fight can go either way — it depends on who can dodge the most hits from their opponent. He has seen this in the one vs. one animal showdown videos he watches on YouTube, predicting who will win before the fight, and then doing research on why afterwards. Although these videos seem like a source of pure entertainment, they are also a manifestation of his interest in nature and wildlife.

Puthenpurayil has been walking with his parents since kindergarten, and says on their walks, he appreciates the shade of bright red staining the leaves during fall and observes the natural world around him in fascination. He is especially interested in the wild animals that roam around the world, “because they’re so cool.” He loves learning about them — if not through his own eyes, then through books. 

“I was reading a book in school about sea otters,” Puthenpurayil said. “And I really got interested in them, so I searched in Google what sea otters are. To learn more, I went to a library near us and brought a few books about sea otters, and read [them]. The most interesting piece of information [I learned] is that sea otters’ most deadly things are oil spills because their fur gets oily and really hard, and makes it really hard [for them] to survive.” 

Through conducting experiments in class, Puthenpurayil has also found an interest in science — he enjoys watching the solutions bubble or explode, but also likes to figure out the mechanics behind why by asking his teachers and his friends. He also hopes to replicate some experiments at home such as the crystallization of salt to see if they produce the same result.

“I follow up,” Puthenpurayil said. “[However], one of the things that I still haven’t done is the volcano project. Every day, I want to do it, but then somehow I just forget about it. And the next day, I remember it again and I want to do it but I don’t have time so it just keeps on going.”

Puthenpurayil wants to combine his two interests and become a wildlife scientist when he grows up. He wants to be someone who explores new places and does “science stuff” such as finding out special characteristics of animals. He has a bucket list of places he wants to go, from the forests in India, to the North and South Poles, to the deep sea. Puthenpurayil made sure to emphasize that he “love[s] every single animal” — from peregrine falcons to eagles to mongooses to snakes to beavers.


Karalyn Foo (7)

Originally inspired by watching K-pop videos, more specifically a BTS video that she immediately loved, Foo can’t remember when she began singing and dancing, but she has been developing a passion and penchant for the visual arts and eventually enjoys teaching her dance moves to her friends at school. Through consistent practice, she has explored different forms of dancing and singing. Due to her natural love for music, she wants to be either a singer or dancer when she grows older. She believes that if it weren’t for her older sister, she would not have found her love for music and musical art.

“I turn to her, because she has lots of experience,” Foo said. “We talk about dancing and singing and I think it made me want to become an amazing dancer.”

Although they used to sing and dance together, Foo says her older sister is now often busy with high school, so she now spends her free time watching videos on YouTube, finding new dance moves and techniques to try.

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