Students Hit a Home Run From Looking at Grass

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Students Hit a Home Run From Looking at Grass

After leading two successful summer workshops on my Falconer seminar for West Point cadets, the faculty mentor and president of our Francis Parker School Upper School ASB (student government) asked me to tailor a set of classes for the ASB leadership team.  They could only give me about 8 hours over a couple of months, a fraction of what I have used in this course in the past.  So I decided to hit the highlights, and last week we hit a home run!

I always have students go out and look at a patch of grass to start to understand how to think systematically.  I have done this with 4th graders as well as the cadets and Parker seniors in the past and it becomes a memorable tool for them to store for future use.  This time we only had 45 minutes, so we broke into four groups: one to list tangible parts of the grass “system”; one to list intangibles; one to list relationships; and one to draw a visual map.

All the groups did a great job and one did something that I had never seen before.  The group responsible for intangibles created two lists: one literary and one of metaphors.  The list of metaphors created by looking at a simple patch of grass was a spontaneous and creative exercise in synthesis, at once poignant and poetic.  And done by four kids in about 15 minutes!  Here it is:

○      No blade of grass is the same, similar to relationships and individuals.

○      We cultivate grass the same way we take care of ourselves and others.

○      A beautiful lawn can be the setting for picnics, sports, games, and activities that bring people together.

○      The sun and the rain work together to create life for the grass, the same way we work with others to create change and action.

○      Sometimes grass is cut or forced to conform to a certain height, just as people are forced to conform in relationships and society, but it has the ability to grow again.

○      Sometimes grass is uneven or grown on uneven land, just as relationships sometimes have rocky foundations but they still have the potential to be beautiful.

This is what happens when we create opportunities for students to get out of predetermined boxes of curriculum and pull together knowledge and experience from disparate sources.

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By | 2012-04-16T15:50:09+00:00 April 16th, 2012|21C Skills, Innovation in Education|3 Comments

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  1. Catherine Thiemann April 24, 2012 at 3:20 am - Reply

    I love two things about this approach. One, the kids drew their lessons from a completely ordinary source — a patch of lawn. Two, the teacher didn’t have the answers up front. You all made the discoveries together.

    • glichtman April 24, 2012 at 4:06 am - Reply

      Educators are finally realizing that teachers need to be cultivators more than preachers. Our best teachers have always done this but I think it will become far more mainstream in the future. This was the core of my Falconer approach; maybe it is catching on! Thanks.

  2. boadams1 April 29, 2012 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Observing, exploring, discovering… Such is the essence of learning from our earliest days. I think this patch of grass activity, which you know I love, returns us to our core as learners. We learn again to be at once an appreciators and participant in the system… as observer, explorer, discoverer. Thanks, Grant.

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