It is garden time. The snow is melting (even though it snowed this morning and left heavy white stuff for me to shovel). It is melting. We will see grass and dark black soil again soon. It is time to get organized. I say this each year and I begin but some how life takes over and I feel lost in the many to do’s. The garden gets planted sort of (mainly the veggies – food is important) but the big changes do not happen. The turning of this land to native plants seems beyond my reach. I just can’t seem to sort it all out. In the past I had no real project in mind. I just wanted to make a change. This year the plants need thinning and dividing. I have a project before me that I need to do. So today I started in little steps. Step one was to find all the garden books, list them and identify the ones that might help me the most in making a shift in the culture of my garden. Also I need to know how to divide up these plants and which plants are native anyway.
Off to my I-pad. I go there because that is where most of my book are now. Sadly but wisely, I decided years ago to limit the number of print books that come into my house. Every room has at least one book shelf full – well except the bathroom. We have plenty of print books, not to worry print is not dead in this household.
The garden books, however, are almost all e-books. So I am scrolling through them getting dizzy as I go. There has to be a better way to do this. There are hundreds of books in my e-reader. I should be able to make a folder for just the garden books. I head off to google and yes indeed I can make a collection of e- books. This means all my garden books can be pulled up at once. I am guessing many of you knew how to do this already but I had no real reason to create a collection until now.
I have a new skill now that will help me with my garden project but also with many other projects. This learning was quick and helpful.
When we need to do something and we don’t know how – we go off to learn. It is our nature as humans to want to learn. We want to figure things out. Very seldom do you come across someone who needs something and they just sit there and say they can’t because they don’t know how. Oh, yeah – I know there are always a few but if you look deeply that is almost always due to some big time emotional issues that are holding that person back. We really want to do. We want to learn.
There are many examples like learning to cook, or bake. I wanted to “put up” the peaches so I found the information to learn how to can them for the winter. If you stop to think about it I am sure you can find many examples of when you needed something you found a way to learn how to do it. Sure some things are harder than others but if we are willing and take the time we can learn most things.
Part of this thinking came from watching “Little Man” learning everyday. It is the nature of infants and toddlers to watch, listen and learn. They try things over and over again until they figure it out. It is part of our DNA to survive. Little Man is all eyes and ears every day, all day. Even when I think he is not listening or is just off being wild and crazy he is aware. He then does what he sees. When I return to the task he will repeat the actions – not perfectly since fine motor is still lacking but he makes approximations. He works at the skill until he has it mastered.
I have been watching him play at the sink. A daily or twice daily activity where he pours and pours water. He fills a cup and drinks. Then fills the cup and drinks again. He is learning to pour without spilling and drink from a cup that does not have a top on it. He is working to understand what a full cup of water is.
We find this in his language patterns – listen and repeat. He finds a way to say thing over and over working things out because he needs to be able to make himself understood. I know you have seen this in your own children and in your students. There is that desire to master skills and information. It happens so easily at 20 months of age.
He loves watering plants so he is working on control of the watering can. He can name the plants we water often. He knows the Peace plant, the Hibiscus, the Christmas Cactus and the African Violets. He names green and yellow beans, spinach and peas that are growing under the grow lights. I would love to say he is amazing (and he is) but all kids are. They are programed to learn.
So the question is are we using this natural sense of learning, this motivator as we teach our children? Think about the leaps they made in learning to use the computer when we started Distance Learning. For that matter think about the leaps you made when this whole pandemic started. The need was there and we leaped into big time learning mode.
Now as we settle back into the in person learning what is the take away? Students may feel behind to some of us in some area but they have mastered so many other things. They mastered them fairly quickly because they needed those skills. Can we use that sense of need when teaching students to add or divide, to read or understand what they are reading? What projects can we set up that make them need the math skills or the reading skills that you want them to master?
This is not a new concept. It was part of my core teaching years and years ago when I was free to teach in an Open Program, not an open spaces but Open concept. It was a project based learning classroom. Students were creating, building, doing and in that creation they needed certain skills. They were highly motivated to learn those skills because they wanted to complete their project.
I remember teaching photography to fourth and fifth graders. We had a professional photography talk to them about design and looking at images. He talked about thinking of your picture in thirds. We did old time developing with pinhole cameras that they made. They had to measure correctly, know their fractions and follow directions carefully. We went on walks to take pictures and their goal was to take pictures that showed the history of our neighborhood. Social Studies, reading and math were everywhere and everyone was working hard to complete and understand all parts of the project. Plus they were so excited they worked with everyone to help understand and support everyones learning.
All this rambling on is really about education now as we step beyond the pandemic. Education and school has changed. It had too. In some ways for the better. No, I don’t want students at home learning. They need teachers and peers. We learn best in groups, I think. I do want us to look at how we teach and how students learn in new and some very old ways. What did we learn over this last year about learning and teaching? What can be taken forward with us as we plan for the end of this year and especially into next year. It is chance to begin fresh and with new eyes.
As an infant, a toddler, school age kid, an adult and as an aging grandparent we are all learning. We learn best when we are excited and engaged in the topic we are learning about. We learn quickly and we hold onto our learning when it has meaning for us. It helps us create, do and understand something that is important to us.
I know what I will be doing with Little Man over the next few years that I play with him. He wants real task with real things. The toys are there but they hold his interest for only a few minutes but put him at the sink where he needs to master a new skill and we are there for hours. Well, ok not hours but a good half hour or more. We are very wet mind you but the focus is intense.
I know how I will set up my learning for the remake of my garden – moving it from a group of plants to a garden with mainly native plants that will support the wild life around me. I have been reading about this for years but turning it into real learning for a real project makes a big difference. Right down to silly little skills like creating folders for my e-books. Funny how this works – real projects make a difference even when you are old.
So can we create the intense interest and learning now as we return to the classroom? Can we use this natural sense of interest in creating and building to help our students move forward in this new age of learning? What skills did they learn over this last year that you can now use to help them in your in person classroom? What independence did they acquire? What group skills did they learn as you moved them into break out groups on the computer? What worked well and what didn’t because they needed to learn some new steps to help them move forward? How do we teach our students to be life long learners – even when pandemics come into play?
What do you think? Am I crazy?
What have you learned this year because you had to or needed to?
Think about – I would love to know how you are now thinking about your classroom, teaching and your students learning or your own learning.