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Adapting one’s educational programming to the moment

Posted by on Oct 30, 2013 in Earth School, Featured | 0 comments

Editor’s note:

A success story and a compelling argument for starting your own Earth School.

—Hershel Sarbin, Editor

streamOne more success story is to do with being flexible, adapting one’s educational programming to the moment, to the weather, to the needs of the children of that class on that day.

In “Walking on Water,” author Derrick Jensen quotes William Torrey Harris, U.S. commissioner of education in1906, who wrote: “Ninety-nine (students) out of a hundred are automata, careful to walk in prescribed paths, careful to follow the prescribed custom.  This is not an accident but the result of substantial education, which scientifically defined, is the subsumption of the individual.”

hands-onEarth School seeks to work in the opposite direction of such a statement, and so the goal is the promotion of the individual, including the teachers, nurturing each person’s talent and natural genius.

During a recent heat wave, I decided to simply forgo the entire farm animal workshop that had been planned, because I knew the children would be miserable out in the hot sun and the stuffy barns.  Instead, we went into the woods.  I turned the whole lesson into one about the web of life and the food chain, how everything is interconnected, how we need clean air and water in order to have healthy food.

stream2But the importance for these particular students, who came from an inner city environment, was that they got to discover salamanders and millipedes, they encountered mushrooms and tasted garlic mustard, they learned how to navigate over rocks, to put their hands into a running stream to feel how cooling it was, and yes, they got wet.  And no, no one complained.  The stories that ensued when these children returned to school were very exciting, and if I had gotten stuck in my own curriculum, this could not have happened.

I didn’t do this with every class, by the way, only the class that was led by a particular teacher who I knew was up for this kind of adventure with his students.  That’s another clue for success: get to know the teachers well.

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