Yesterday afternoon I visited a former student, Tanya. She was in my fifth grade class in 1993. What a joy it was to see her and meet her family. She is tapping maple trees on her property to make syrup. This is something that she learned in my class. We reminisced about all of the things we did in fifth grade. The many field trips, edible wild plants, rockets, and camp.
Tanya, who is now a school board member at my former school, is passing this passion for learning and trying new things to her children. Her family also raises beef, chickens and sheep on four acres of land. Tanya’s husband, Dave is a tool and die maker and is adept at fabricating tools. This led us to a discussion about educational philosophy. We discussed how schools have developed a culture of testing and the negative effects on children. We spoke about how learning should be novel, hands-on and authentic and the importance of play and imagination in the learning process. We talked about how maker’s labs can foster that kind of learning.
Too often as teachers, we are overwhelmed with all of the things that we have to get done in our classrooms and it is difficult to step out and develop new things. I want to encourage you as a teacher to put aside the textbook, and engage in something fun and novel for both you and your students.
Yes, it is scary to step out of your comfort zone, but it is equally rewarding for both you and your students. Will you fail? Yes, you probably will at some aspect of your activity. This is how you learn. Revise what went wrong and then set the activity aside for next year and try a new activity.
If you set a goal of developing a hands-on activity once a week or even once a month it will make your job a lot more fun and will provide for an enjoyable learning experience for your students. Build your repertoire of activities and soon your classroom will be the talk of the school!