One of the commenters to my post about education reform suggested that we end “cookie cutter” education by taking kids out of the classroom and into the real world. This is an excellent idea. The first school I taught at had mandatory field trips once a month for every class, and also a mandatory annual overnight field trip for every grade starting at 2nd. My 2nd graders camped out overnight because it went along with the Spring pioneer curriculum. (This was an education for me, as I’m not what you’d call outdoorsy.) The 5th graders took a nearly week-long trip to Washington D.C. because their Spring curriculum was government. Everything was thematic, and learning was play-based, and at the end of every year, each grade put on a show displaying their projects for the theme in every discipline: science, math, art, etc. Often classes prepared a play, or song and dance routines to entertain their school-mates and provide parents with lots of opportunity for recording video.
It’s easy to say that this is something every school should do, but I know that being able to go on that many trips is a matter of cost, and the textbooks that states are buying up don’t provide for thematic learning.
The next best thing is getting experts to come to the students, thereby bringing the world to the classroom. It doesn’t even matter if those experts are mountain climbing experts. There’s a lot of physics in climbing a mountain. This is a far more affordable solution, and doesn’t even require permission slips. And still, many schools don’t invite people to come into the classrooms very often, if at all.
Luckily, since leaving full-time teaching to be a full-time writer, I have been invited to classrooms to speak about what I do for a living. But I don’t think that writers and other artists should be the only ones. There are a lot of other kinds of experts out there and students need to be prepared for the world at large, instead of what they’re currently being prepared for: a life of schooling and test-taking. But that’s not reality, is it? And if we’re not preparing them for reality, exactly what are we preparing them for?
[Image from: http://www.coxandcox.co.uk/products/jigsaw-cookie-cutter]