Natural Learning Environment


What does a natural learning environment look like to you? Is it indoors or outdoors? Stiff chairs or comfy chairs? Strict or flexible? How do you learn? What is comfortable to you?

When I think of this, I think of my own children. When do they learn? Where do they learn? How am I presenting learning oppportunities to them?

These thoughts came to me while I was listening to the Modern Learners podcast today. They were discussing Carol Black, who produced The Wonder Years, one of my favorite shows when I was little. I listened to her video, which I will link below, about Alternatives to Schooling. She has some amazing points about kids, how we learn, and school.

Alternatives to Schooling- Carol Black

One thing that stuck out, was how our schools are set up and how we "think" kids should learn. I'll elaborate on this more, but I want to answer some of my questions above. My own children will not engage in ABC's, numbers, or reading a book if I force them. When they bring up a book, I read it. When they recognize a number or count, I count with them. They could be sitting, playing cars, laying on the couch, or in bed. When these experiences happen, I don't make them sit in a chair or make them write something down. When we're outside and they ask questions, we discuss it. When we are driving in the car, they ask a million questions and we discuss it. My youngest imitates his older brother. My youngest says what his brother says. This is not how our schools are set up for our children to learn. If you have children, nieces, nephews, or cousins, I'm sure you would agree that how my children learn is similar to how most children learn.

We have schools set up the way they are because that's how we've always done it. We teach our students the content because that's how we've always done it. We have rows of chairs and desks or tables. We have our own posters/quotes on our walls. We design our classrooms. We have units and lessons we prepare from standards we need to cover. We go outside for recess only (or quick 5-10 minute breaks). We switch to a different subject per the schedule. This is not the best or natural way for children or anyone to learn.

We label and diagnos students that can't perform or "succeed" in this artifical environment we call school. Doesn't this seem wrong to you? This makes me cringe with anger. These students do not have a fair chance of succeeding in our current schools. We expect students to sit and regurgitate information we give to them. This is competely opposite of the way kids learn. Why are we expecting our kids to learn in this way?

We need to push and allow our children to keep learning how they've learned prior to school. We need to be outside more. We need to let children ask questions and be able to find the answers. These questions need to drive our future lessons and units. We need to let them imitate older students. We need to let them play and socialize. We need to come along side them and jump into whatever they are excited about at that moment.

I'll leave you with this quote from Carol Black:

"Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school, is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World."

Check out more of Carol Black's work at http://carolblack.org/