We spark instincts already in kids: the desire to get outside and wander, wonder, dig and climb. Kids are curious and we aim to keep it that way long enough to let them bond with, and gain inspiration from, nature. Einstein knew, “Nature teaches us everything we need to know,” and creatively applying nature’s principles leads to brilliant design and a world of abundance.
When I began this journey (Environmental Education), I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I figured, if we get kids outside to play and to learn about how nature works, we’ll improve our health and accelerate the transition towards an economy where our species ‘fits in.’ Now, years later, after reading everything I could get my hands on, loads of heated debate and time in hundreds of classrooms with thousands of kids, I know a little. Continue reading
Great news. Great Lakes Bioneers Chicago just announced we’ll have an afternoon of programming for high school students. Bioneers is a national movement of people and organizations working on solutions inspired by nature. This November 1st-3rd marks the 2nd year Chicago has hosted a gathering. It’s an event of solutionaries, by solutionaries, for solutionaries. See the attached flier for more, or http://www.bioneerschicago.org
You’re not going to get into an argument when you say “our education system could do better.” For sure, reformers are trying their best and efforts are nearly everywhere. Most of the prevailing public school reform efforts tend to focus around longer days, narrower curriculum with more testing (think ‘test prep’ and route memorization) and holding teachers accountable based on the results of those tests.
Who are those efforts serving? Do the kids benefit?
What if the model’s outdated and efforts to make it better only make things worse? If that’s the case, why would we charge ahead with this same model?
Free education for the masses helped transition independent farmers into wage earners, working for someone else.
We charge ahead because it still serves the needs of those who run the system. We want graduates (in debt) to become cogs in the wheel, and certainly not question the status quo.
Fortunately, there are people working for something else. Again, most people agree we ought to do better, but there are alternatives to the neoliberal/business model of education reform. It’s not about reform, but rather transforming the model. It’s about understanding kids aren’t widgets and subjects shouldn’t be silos. From teacher strikes to kids walking out of school to Sir Ken Robinson hits to ‘Educate the Whole Child’ movement to place-based education, millions see the current model doesn’t serve the needs of children, nor the needs of the 21st century. Millions are creating something different. What are you doing?
“If no pediatrician would deny that the healthiest adults spent their childhood rolling around in dirt, why obsess over keeping kids squeaky clean?”*
Learning happens in exploratory play. And it’s been going on for tens of thousands of years. It’s different than organized play. It’s play where kids have time to wander, to make up games, to use their imagination and to fall in love with the world around them.
So, what holds us back from allowing our children more unstructured time? Is it the lure of electronic devices? Safety, or space concerns? Are organized sports really more fun?
Consider this: while kids accrue immediate benefits, from unstructured time in nature, e.g. physical, mental, spiritual health, there’s also the long game. In addition to becoming happy, resilient, confident problem solvers, kids who grow up understanding how nature works and our connections with it, are better poised to thrive in a 21st century where change will be constant.
Isn’t that worth getting our hands dirty for? Let’s have some fun.
International Mud Day is here.*
Even as we adults work individually to keep our own lives headed in the right direction, the world around us is in chaos. A polarized and paralyzed Washington D.C. can’t handle our runaway debt and stubborn unemployment. Globally, only climate change dwarfs the challenges of entrenched poverty and hunger. We have no idea what the world’s going to be like in ten years, let alone when your child retires in fifty or sixty years. The craziness is unprecedented.
One thing we do know: the world is hiring problem solvers. Continue reading
No matter where we turn, we’re fed news and information about all the world’s activities. TV, radio, magazine and the web, we’re connected. With a limited attention span, the headlines demand our attention and they bombard us with disturbing stories that cause concern: chronic unemployment and rising income inequality. Continue reading
I like to skim through some of my favorite books, to remind me of useful thoughts I’ve forgotten. Touring Ogden International School’s new building last night inspired me to re-read The Third Teacher, 79 Ways to Use Design to Transform Teaching and Learning. As soon as I picked up the book, my mind began racing. Consider: A child entering 1st grade this fall will graduate college in 2030 and retire around 2065.
The world’s changing fast (as is what’s required from graduates), yet a teacher from the Victorian age Continue reading
So much craziness happening, what’s a kid to think? If it’s not homework and grades, maybe they worry about their appearance and material wants. If it’s not enough free time, perhaps it’s too many hours plugged in—to the TV, computer or iPod. Sure, every generation has had it’s share of stresses and challenges, but what if students pay attention and think critically about the bigger picture? From growing inequality and lack of political leadership to environmental collapse and climate change, is there room for hope?
If we overwhelm, we alienate. If we frighten, we paralyze. I argue times are ripe for change, point to the millions already involved in altering the current course and find relevant (usually local) projects to partake. Importantly, I suggest teaching ‘democracy’ as a verb. To that end, check out Rebecca Altman’s piece here on students taking meaningful action on reducing the number of catalogs shipped and film The Lorax that produced results.
Education. While the word itself may not spark as much passionate debate as religion and politics, everyone has an opinion. Those opinions vary wildly, yet there’s one common theme: we can, and we must do better at educating children. Education is viewed as essential to “progress” and better lives. So, ideas for improvement are put forth. Sides are taken. Debates rage—ratcheted up as test scores arrive. What makes sense? Continue reading
2012 is the year I’ll spend less time plugged in and more time outdoors. After too many hours cooped up indoors, I walk outside and my mind says, “what took you so long?” So, I often hesitate recommending visiting yet another website. That said, the trick is to find the sources that save you from spending time on other sites. Is the content engaging, valuable, diverse and concise?
With that in mind, I find myself repeatedly pulled to Mrs. Q’s Fed Up with Lunch blog. True, I hadn’t read it before being asked to post a guest blog, see here, there are plenty of food blogs and I’m biased towards the subjects of food/kids, but Mrs. Q’s blog covers the gamut, and covers it well. She’s a Chicago Public School Teacher that ate school lunch every day last year and blogs about the experience. Mrs. Q’s great at bringing attention to the injustice of the food system, while sharing stories of those sowing the seeds of change. And she’s always concise.
Love & Peas, Tim.
P.S. Here I am recommending more time on the computer: a Chicago Tribune article on our urban agriculturalist Seneca Kern. Seneca, thanks for the signature.