What if teachers learned to teach and learners learned to learn like explorers, scientists, empaths, inventors, poets, artists, and entrepreneurs? What if we started over in our construct of education, dialed it back to pre-1850 and extracted the pedagogy of apprenticeship, experience, observation, synthesis, and practice that underlay the wondrous mind explosions of the Renaissance, the scientific revolution, and Silicon Valley?
This week I had the pleasure of two days in outdoor learning laboratories with Bo Adams and his family, four highly willing students of whatever is new in the world around them. We explored animals at the San Diego Zoo, wave eroded cliffs and sleeping seals at La Jolla Cove, and the desert in bloom, from arid alluvial fans to quartzite mountains to a palm oasis and it’s disappearing creek bed in the Anza Borrego desert. We thought about how water has determined every facet of the history of western North America (particularly relevant in this time of drought and climate change), the dynamic history of the earth, and what happens when towns get built on ground where boulders wash down slopes in flash floods.
As Bo tweeted out: “Why doesn’t school look like this?” Lessons and deep learning occur just outside every classroom and just adjacent to every campus if we know how to look for it. Sure, we can say that the schedule and the Common Core don’t allow us the freedom to choose those options, but those are shallow excuses and plenty of other schools are making them. I guarantee you that the two young Adams boys (and probably mom and dad) are going to remember a lot more about deserts from that one day than from all of the geography or science classes they ever take in “school”.