Imagine if you went to an area of the world where there were no schools and children had no idea what going to school was like, especially in the United States. Now imagine how they might respond if asked the following question – how would you like to learn about math? Assume that these children are 11 years old and are given a brief overview of what topics within math they might study.
While I don’t have the scientific evidence to prove this, I doubt very much that the response would be to sit in a room with desks and chairs carefully placed in aligned rows while a person much older than them lectures about quadratic equations or the FOIL method for algebra. Also, you probably wouldn’t hear things like “we should sit in a room for 50 minutes and then a bell should ring letting us know it is time to move on to the next subject.”
My gut tells me the children would probably ask “why do we need to learn this?” e.g. “how does this relate to real life?” They would then probably ask to see, touch, and feel things while they learn. Why? Because for almost their entire lives that is how they have learned things. If a child in Africa needs to learn to hunt his parents don’t send him to the local Kumon Hunting Academy to brush up on the trajectory of an arrow, they take him into the fields and he hunts. Even in the United States, young children are given toys to build, create, and construct. Tonka trucks don’t come with instructions.
My point with all of this is that if we look at things from the lens of the student, the more meaningful hands on learning we can provide the better they will be, especially if we can connect that learning to real life. The good news? We can do both. We can still have the traditional classroom and incorporate simple approaches that enable children to build and create what they are learning.
Here is your challenge – with everything you teach ask yourself two questions:
1. If a child was designing this, is this what they would want and
2. How can I incorporate meaningful hands on learning into what I am doing
As far as those 11 year old kids in another part of the world are concerned, I also doubt that they would ask for a standardized test where the results impact a teacher’s pay…but that is a topic for a different day.