Monday, February 8, 2016

Self-Created Experiences


from The Power of Play

Do kids have opportunities to create their own learning experiences? Can they explore their own ideas or interests? How would the learning environment change if we allowed kids to create some or all of their learning?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Homework in the Snow

View from my office during the snow days
A couple of weeks ago, we had snow. (Like many others in the country.) A lot of snow. Well...a lot of snow for us. So school was out and many businesses closed.

Snow's a big deal here. We don't get it very often and we don't handle it well when it comes. Actually, we may handle it in the best way - we stop everything and just enjoy it. We play in it. We stay put. We use the bread and milk that was frantically purchased before the snow fell. (Don't ask me why we always buy these things. You just do it when it snows in the south!)

While surfing Facebook on one of these snowy days, I came across a post from the wonderful Rae Pica. (If you don't follow her, you should. She's always posting great stuff about kids and early childhood development.) The article ("nonsense") she posted told of schools that give homework for snow days - to combat the learning "amnesia" that could occur during the time off from school. What?!?!!

(Caution: Possible rant ahead)

Why don't we trust kids? There's mounds of snow outside. They are going to go out and explore it. They will actually "learn" something, too. They will have firsthand experiences with the cold, wet, slick stuff. They will figure out trajectories as they lob snowballs at one another. They will discover negative space as they make snow angels. They will delve into engineering and construction as they create snowmen. They will PLAY.

This is especially true in places similar to where I live. We get snow so seldom (and often tiny bits when it does come). This is the perfect time to explore. Oh, we can talk about snow and its characteristics. We can look at pictures of it. We can analyze it from an intellectual perspective. We can create small bits of it to handle. But nothing beats tromping through it on an icy cold day or scraping it from the hood of the car to really understand what it's all about.

A kindergarten teacher here also gave snow day homework. Actually she challenged her class to a Snowman Competition. She sent a message to each of her kids, challenging them to build a snowman and send her a picture of it. She planned to share them with the class when they returned to school. This wasn't in her lesson plan. It wasn't strictly assessed. But I think it's a great idea! She picked up on what was happening in the children's lives and brought it into the classroom in a way that was fun, connected, and meaningful.

I fear our system has moved into a dangerous direction. Are we are more concerned about kids forgetting something that they "learned" in school because they are playing in the snow than encouraging them to enjoy what's happening outside their own doors? (Side note: If they forget it that quickly, did they really learn it?) We seem to be emphasizing knowing things over living life. Hmm. Not what I hope for the future leaders of our society.

Let them play in the snow. Yes, they may learn something. But they will have fun. And that's okay in it's own right, too.