Education must prepare students to be independent, self-reliant human beings. But education, at its best, also must help students go beyond their private interests, gain a more integrative view of knowledge, and relate their learning to the realities of life.
— Ernest L. Boyer
One thing I love about PNA is the ability to be flexible with our day and that we can adjust the rhythm of our learning to best accommodate the children. An independent education is all about the needs of the child, and when I see that one thing isn't working or that the lesson I had planned for the day won't meet the needs of the children on a particular day, I can readjust and tailor the experience to better suit the learning needs of the class. It's a bit like sailing; a course can be mapped but each day, each hour, nearly each minute is affected by numerous variables. One student who is loathing math at the moment? Let's switch it up and play math games! Let's make it fun again! One student who is getting tired of writing? Let's learn about alliteration and write zany and silly poems! (I particularly liked Larry the Lion likes licking lollipops with Lily at the Lake.) Feeling cramped and restless? Let's go out and feel the sunshine on our faces and wander through the trees in in knee deep snow. Flexibility, freedom, the ability to be creative and intentional - these are important aspects of education just as are traditional courses such as math and reading. So often, we can tie these creative expeditions to our lessons and students not only learn academic material, they learn to apply it in real-life situations.
Our class is particularly hands-on and creative, so we learned about architecture this week. Is architecture part of the state-mandated standards? No. However, I have a couple students who love to build and talk about growing up to be builders and exposing them to architecture seems to be a natural response to their curiosities. We designed 3-dimensional houses and students were challenged to place them in either a tree, on land, or on the water. Students realized quickly that when they placed the house in the tree, they couldn't get in it with out also designing a ladder. One student who created a boat house realized it would "sink" unless he designed a floating platform for his house's foundation. They had to figure out how to make their landscape support their 3-D house and it was so fun to see their creative energy flowing as they excitedly designed, constructed, and presented their creations. Newbyleisurelimited.com has an awesome article about the benefits of creative freedom for young children. Their article states, "By allowing children freedom in construction play it also makes them think independently and make decisions based on what they are learning. This is great for teachers and it will then transpire into other areas of education and make the child a well-rounded learner as they grow older."
Creative freedom extends beyond the classroom and traditional learning. This week's Brown Bag series is just an example of the freedom that we have as an independent school. Students were encouraged and supported as they showcased their talents. They have been learning about MLK all week and how to be a servant to others and to show kindness, support, and be inclusive. The support and energy from their classmates was palpable and it was wonderful to see students perform with such confidence. These students exuded joy, confidence, and independence - traits that all parents, teachers, and administrators hope to see as their children journey through their education at PNA.
I love the outdoors, reading, art, gardening, and sharing my love of learning!