November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
It has finally arrived! You’ve waited all week but now your brand new tablet that doubles as an electronic hub for your entire house is finally in your hands. You can change the channel on your TV, lower the thermostat, and even, start a pot of coffee without leaving the comfort of your recliner. You are incredibly excited about using the new product but it’s going to take some time to set up every device to work with the new tablet. Fortunately, it came with a 294-page booklet that details each step.
You never open the booklet. You learn best by doing and troubleshooting a problem than by reading a manual anyway. You start setting up the television to work with the tablet and then the thermostat. You test both out and everything works fine. You set the coffee pot up, turn it on, and it quickly erupts in flames. You did something wrong and now have to figure out what it was. You reflect on what you did, and try something else to see if it works but it doesn’t. Lucky for you, the third try gets everything working the way it should. You have learned from your mistake and will never make the same mistake again.
Too many times we rob our children from experiences like these. We force them to sit in classrooms and study about academic areas without ever truly experiencing the world. What if you read the entire manual, front to back, without ever practicing? You would have gained very little knowledge because it was never put in context of the real world.
In Counterpane’s Lower School, students put their knowledge into the context of the world. The students have a “Garden Party” where they sell vegetables and flowers that they have grown. This allows the students to not only study about the plants but experience the process of growing them. They not only learn about the different types of plants but grow them, handle them, and, finally, sell them.
Additionally, they have to think critically about the process. Every year the school is on a break when the tulips finally bloom. After working so hard to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, and water the flowers, no one has the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labor. So, they are now in the process of discovering what type of tulip will bloom at a time they are in school. This process not only teaches about plants but also about life. Learning from one’s mistakes and executing a plan that can take months to fulfill itself are such valuable tools that allow children to excel at a high level.