Oh, but it's fun to ignore all that and to make plans.
After our recent weekend retreat, we came home inspired and ready to run with an idea that had taken root long ago and was now ready for some growth. The very next afternoon my husband got on the lawn mower and disappeared for a while into our weedy woods.
She also shared how science is commonly approached in today's schools. With some informed calculations Jen estimated that there are a couple thousand individuals who are involved in the process our writing our national science standards. Each one represents a certain group with a different adgenda they are trying to promote. This larger group of people puts together a comprehensive list of things kids should know before they graduate. From these curriculums and textbooks are written.
I have been on our state's education website and read through some of the standards in the past. They are overwhelming, even to me, a teacher who was trained to use them. In schools students read through explanations and summaries of scientific information in their textbooks. They review terms they need to know. They are presented with experiments and are expected to reproduce their knowledge on a test. That is the bulk of their learning, and from that teachers hope students will fall in love with science, possibly even choosing it as a lifelong pursuit. Some do.
It is different in a Mason approach. When kids are yet the littlest of little, they are to be given the wide world to explore, experience, discover, and they are given hours of time in which to make connections with it in a personal way.
I read this article recently that said:
“Hands-onexperience at the critical time, not systematic knowledge, is what counts in the making of a naturalist.”
“Between the ages of six and twelve, children have an innate desire to explore the woods, build forts, make potions from wild berries, dig to China, and each of these activities is an organic, natural way for them to develop environmental values and behaviors. Instead, the “look but don’t touch” approach cuts kids off from nature, teaching them that nature is boring and fraught with danger.”
“…the imaginative, constructive practice of fort building actually fosters the sense of connectedness that land trusts [and many others] want to cultivate in young people.”
I also read this, "During the six and seven months each year in the twelve fiercest formative years of his life, Abraham Lincoln had the pads of his foot-soles bare against the earth."
- Carl Sandburg
When finished, the child makes entries in a notebook, drawings or words or test strips from the experiement, whatever they need to tell all about what they learned. It's a form of narration. This is how a passion for science begins and grows. And the process is the same from elementary to high school.
Sigh. That takes away some of my future high school worries (few though they are since my kids are so young).
At one of the sessions some sad statistics were shared about how few college students ever even take a science course unless it is required. And how many of our nation's science related jobs are being taken by people who grew up and learned science in other countries, and how with the rise of technology this younger generation's interest in science is lacking.
This new way of learning is not meant to be all-encompassing. It is a portal to a wider universe. It is an inch wide but a mile deep.
Mowing a path may seem very common sense, but to us it took a little thinking outside the box. One fairly simple change opened up a new avenue for us to get in touch with nature and foster a love of science in our kids and ourselves.