Starting school in the 1950s, I was educated in traditional schools, rows of desks, folded hands, and lecturing teachers. I had trouble sitting still, but I did thrive in school. I enjoyed going to school. I did well and had friends. I think my whole life revolved around school. I enjoyed it so much that I spent the next 45 years after college teaching and working at schools. Even now in retirement, I am an adjunct professor at the local community college.
All of this is to say that I understand and support a traditional approach to education. It’s been very good to me and to many other students. However, my 5-year-old grandson has taught me about education in different terms. He attends a school where their play-based curriculum is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach. Wow, play-based. Learn through play. What could be better, learning should be fun!
They not only have the students learn through guided play, but they also have the vast majority of their lessons outdoors. My grandson is an outdoor adventurer. He runs through the woods, sometimes jumps and flies through the air, and learns by exploring the trees, bugs, leaves, critters, and deer. I think that my grandson might be the reincarnation of Tarzan. What could be better?
My grandson taught me what for many might be true as stated by Haruki Murakami said, “The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.” My grandson learns from the teachers, from the other students, from the animals, and from the outdoors. And he loves to play, I mean learn!
It seems to me, with the climate crisis looming over us all, there is no better way to say to the next generation, nature is beautiful, wondrous, and to be respected and cared for. This school has created outdoor adventures based on Author Richard Louv’s new book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. Maybe that’s why we find ourselves where we are today? Today’s adults have Nature Deficit Disorder. They are so consumed with their cell phones and apps, computers, tablets, and laptops that they never looked around and thought to take care of the earth.
I loved school and found homework and worksheets to be fulfilling, even fun. I like that sense of accomplishment. But today’s children have been raised on video games and computers and cell phones. I call them digital natives. They need a different stimulation than us old folks but enough with the online games and super graphics. Do you know what else has eye-popping graphics? Nature! Do you know what moves with amazing grace? A deer and a chip munk! And the colors of wildflowers, wow! Carl Sagan asked, what’s happened to the students’ curiosity between kindergarten and 12th grade. Did we stifle it? Something to think about.