Wednesday, May 16, 2012

learning by doing...

A blog reader pointed out in a comment that most teachers would agree with me about how children learn, and yet, we know that schools are not set up to deliver hands-on learning for a variety of reasons. One reason is that schools are required to deliver a wide array of subjects, each at a particular narrow breadth, without regard to depth. Another is that class schedules do not allow flexibility. Children moving between classes regulated by bells, quickly discover that their own learning interests are less important than schedules. Teachers, to meet those schedules, are forced to lecture as their most efficient means of adhering to schedule and course requirements, even though all teachers must know that learning by lecture pales in comparison to learning hands-on, as each of us can observe in our own lives that those things we do learn by doing are learned at a deeper level and to greater lasting effect. Another reason is that teachers are drawn from a student population little cognizant of the values and rewards of learning endeavors that require skilled hands. These teachers rarely have experience in setting up hands-on learning opportunities for kids.

So what can be done? A deliberate strategy of hands-on learning would bring the following changes to American education... 1. A progressive interdisciplinary, multiple intelligences approach to learning at grades pre-k though 6th. 2. Project based learning grades 6 through 12 with greater use of internships, and a commitment to hands-on learning at all levels in all subjects.

The approach we use at Clear Spring School is called integrated thematic instruction. A topic or theme is chosen that children love, and then that theme is explored through classroom work, and craft projects involving math, science, reading, writing, social studies and more. the Wisdom of the Hands program has the specific role of bringing greater hands-on focus, not only in the wood shop, but in the classroom as well.

Things get more challenging at middle school where children need to become even more engaged in real noble notions that fulfill their needs to become active participants in community life. Children as they reach middle school age need to be drawn from engagement in fantasy toward having real purpose in their lives. To meet that developmental need, we aim more toward project based learning.

In high school, educational concerns become complicated. Students need to become prepared for college, and that means transcripts, practice in testing and greater accountability. As in middle school, learning needs to become even more project based, with those projects meeting real needs within the community.

Today in the CSS wood shop, first, second and third grade students began making wooden kangaroos related to their study of Australia. Photos shown above. In my own wood shop, I am getting ready for the annual White Street Walk. That means getting boxes ready for delivery. I set up my display tomorrow.

Make, fix and create...

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