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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM WITH PHONE OR TABLET 12     Part 1 Equilibrium is the mental balance a person seeks between existing thought structures and new experiences. Disequilibrium is the lack of balance and confusion experienced when existing thought structures and a new experience do not fit exactly into what a person (previously) knows. Piaget understood that balance as described in the definition of equi- librium is accomplished through the assimilation and accommodation of conflicting experiences and perceptions. Assimilation, accommodation, and equilibrium occur, for example, when children visit a zoo. Aaron visits the aviary at the zoo and sees what he calls a “rainbow bird.” Even though he has not seen a green-cheeked Amazon parrot before, he incorporates or assimilates his observations into his existing knowledge about birds. Aaron knows the animal he sees has feathers, wings, and can fly—so it is a bird. He doesn’t know the name of the bird, but he sees the many colors and names it for himself. Samantha sees a koala bear and thinks it is a bear because the word bear is part of its name and because it has fur. Samantha is confused, however, as she sees the koala bear in a tree and not on the ground similar to other bears she has seen. She rejects the idea that a koala is a bear. She also rejects the idea that koalas are monkeys, as koalas do not chatter or swing from branch to branch. In doing so, Samantha extends or accom- modates her thinking about koala bears. She knows that koalas are animals and has been told that they are bears. She needs to change her thinking to accommodate this new species. She achieves equilibrium when her mental concept of the animal name “koala bear” matches her new knowledge of real koala bears. Organization is the mental process by which a person organizes experi- ences and information in relation to each other. This process allows a per- son to arrange existing ideas and adapt to new experiences in a way that is understandable, connected, and integrated. Schemas are concepts or mental representations of experiences that help a person adapt and organize his environment. Schemas help people orga- nize knowledge. Children use schemas to think or guide their behavior. For example, infants first learn about their environment through a suck- ing schema and a grasping schema—their methods for learning about the world affect the type of knowledge they can learn. A preschooler has a schema for a dog, friendship, or zipping her jacket. The schema structures develop and change with age and experience. Piaget recognizes that children are active makers of meaning and that they construct their own knowledge when engaged in meaningful and authentic problem-based learning. As ECE professors, we validate Piag- et’s view of children as scientists in search of knowledge. We want early COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL