I did not think my afternoon session with the freshmen at All Saints Episcopal School could top the “you made my head hurt” whirl of systems thinking with the sophomores.
I may have been wrong.
I had a 70-minute learning block with the 9th grade cohort of the Tad Bird Honors College, and with virtually no introduction, I told them “I am tossing you into the deep end.” Borrowing from the critical steps of Bo Adams’ and Jill Gough’s cutting edge Synergy 8 class, I released the students to wander the campus for 20 minutes with these utterly simple and vague guidelines:
- Observe how learning takes place.
- Reflect on what is important in your own life.
- Think about how those two relate to each other.
When they came back, the students gathered in groups, journaled for a few minutes, and I again gave them a simple, yet highly abstract task:
- Write sticky notes from your observations.
- Place these on some flip chart paper as a group.
- Map them into groups and relationships that make sense to you.
It would be an understatement to say that some of the observing faculty were blown away by the sophistication of understanding that emerged from this simple exercise.
- One group mapped: Product, Building Blocks, Ways to Learn, and Learning Environment, with “”want to learn” and “questions” at the center.
- A second group mapped: Learning Environment, Types of Learning, Application of Knowledge, Learning Ideas, and How We Learn.
- A third group mapped: Sensory, Purpose, and Thinking
IN 15 MINUTES!!!!
They went on to review each other’s work, generate “What if…?” questions and use those to pitch concrete ideas for how learning might change to more closely align with their views of relevance. Ideas included: “Let us make more decisions about what we study.” “Students should talk more in class; teachers should talk less.”
In the 70 minutes I talked for less than 10 minutes. The following day I heard that two teachers decided to immediately re-design their curriculum for the remainder of the semester by sharing the task with their students.
What if every student learned like this every day or once a week, instead of just the honors students and just a few times a year?