Tuesday, April 19, 2011

a means, a method, a strategy

Those of us who understand the value of hand-on learning have the opportunity of pushing things in our own direction for the benefit of those children we teach. Mothers and fathers in their own homes, have the opportunity of turning off the TV, restricting the use of computers and offering nights in which children and adults are engaged in crafts, even if those crafts are as simple as those involving paper, scissors and string. We see and bear witness to what we can make of our own lives.

In schools, the challenge can be greater. Teachers are measured on their children's performance, and little allowance may be offered for teachers to experiment in bringing the hands into greater use. I repeat Jerome Bruner from yesterday's post, "In so far as possible, a method of instruction should have the objective of leading the child to discover for himself."The most certain way to push learning into the realm of discovery is the strategic purposeful engagement of the hands. When we do inter-classroom staff visitations at Clear Spring School, we are asked to look for signs that the school mission is accomplished. That mission is: Together, all at Clear Spring School promote a lifelong love of learning through a hands-on and hearts-engaged educational environment. And so part of what we watch for as observers of each other's instruction is effective means to bring lessons to the student's hands that they themselves may participate in direct discovery.

Bruner talks about a thing he calls "effective surprise." And I'm sure you can remember times in which you've been surprised by what you have discovered. These moments of awakening that catch us off guard, are the times that learning is most effective and best remembered. They happen in science and in the arts. In other words, surprise, surprise. While administrators come up with all kinds of complicated strategies to attempt to improve American education, the most effective means was right at our fingertips all along. It is time for teachers to take matters in their own hands.

Today in the CSS woodshop, 7th and 8th grade students will continue drawing on the drawing boards and using their self-made T-squares. The 9th grade class will practice wood turning.

Make, fix and deliberately create.

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