Thursday, March 03, 2016

who's smart and for what...

Yesterday we had brief sewing lessons in the wood shop, as my student Alena gave some of her peers their first chance to sew on a machine. We are making civil war style checker sets. The wooden checkers will fit into a bag for travel that also serves as a checker board. The point is that doing real things provides learning and integration between subjects, and helps the child make real world connections between ideas that would not be made so secure in artificially contrived learning environments. All things, and all subjects stand in relation to each other, but not as they are typically presented in most schools.

Most schools this time of year are tied up in knots over standardized testing. The high stakes testing regime plays havoc in most schools and in children's lives as expressed in this letter written by a teacher to her Kindergarten children, assuring them that whatever the forced testing tells them and however they must struggle to get through it, they are smart and they are loved.
"I know how hard you have worked, but there is something very important you must know," the sweet note read. "The ... tests do not assess all of what makes you special and unique. The people who create these tests ... do not know each of you like I do, and certainly not the way your families do.

"The scores you will get from these tests will tell you something, but they will not tell you everything," the note continued. "These tests do not define you. There are many ways of being smart. You are smart!"
In any case, testing and learning are two different things. Real learning takes place when kids do real things. The checker sets will be used when the students go on school travel across the state of Arkansas next month.

The chessboard and chess pieces shown are being crafted by a 7th grade student, with the pieces being of her own design.

Make, fix, create, and extend to others the joy of learning and living likewise.

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