Watching the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly or mixing water and oil to see what happens are ways for children to experience learning. Pinterest and YouTube are full of ideas. Reading stories about families in foreign countries and then trying new foods from there or taking apart an old computer to see what is inside and then trying to make something from the parts are also ways of experiencing learning. Although there are great teachers who squeeze these experiences into their day, most teachers are too stressed trying to squeeze in the curriculum they have been given. Children need time to experience a sense of awe. They need more “Wow” moments and time to develop their natural curiosity.
I wonder if the diploma and the test score have become more important than what we are actually learning. Do these diplomas and scores really mean anything?
“Developing Lifelong Learners” was a theme a few years back for many schools. But, how can we hope for children to love learning when they are saying “I hate school” at younger and younger ages. Learning should be fun and not always tied to a test. Yes there are some basics that can only be memorized such as math facts, but even those can be made into fun games.
In Juarez, I see children playing in vacant lots using old tires and whatever they can find as toys. My Cuban friend tells me he would rather send his grandson the parts of a toy. Then he will appreciate it and take care of it because he has invested in it when he gets it put together. And, he can fix it if it breaks! I think he is right. The children in my literacy center are not lacking toys. They have wonderful imaginations for their games. I would love for them to have more books so that their dreams could grow and expand. But toys are not a necessity. Neither are electronics.
There are some great teachers bringing in egg incubators, jars of tadpoles, and tastes of food from faraway places. There are great homeschool moms taking their kids on wonderful field trips even in their own backyard.
Let’s make learning fun again. Let’s learn and feel that sense of awe at the new things we learn. Then we will truly be lifelong learners.