When our children are small, we buy them Legos and let them play with interactive toys. We wrestle with them, sip tea from their miniature sets, and ask them to “close their eyes” while they feel an object and guess its identity.
What would happen if we allowed elementary students—our children in the 6 to 14-year old age group—to experience academic concepts through physically interacting with them? Would we then be feeding their natures while at the same time reinforcing essential learning concepts?
Hands-on learning in the elementary grades has become one of the more contentious issues for American educators in the 21st Century. It’s a contentious issue in that this approach typically doesn’t work for those who feel the need to emphasize performance on or preparation for standardized testing. We find ourselves, in 2018, at a bit of a crossroads: Continue to emphasize learning as preparation for a test, or shift to emphasizing learning that feeds children’s natures: interactive and experiential.
The rub for many will always be this: Are we able to encourage the development of an appropriate knowledge base while at the same time allowing students to “experience” a concept? It’s a tough question in that for the most part, education hasn’t given the idea a legitimate try. We have historically separated hands-on learning experiences from what we arrogantly call “classroom learning.” We have P.E. classes, science experiments, and project based learning, convincing ourselves we’re serving our students’ natures; at the same time, we expect students to sit attentively in a classroom, taking Cornell notes or responding in a short piece of writing to a standardized prompt.
While we never want to compromise intellectual development for our students, we also should never expect our pre-adolescent and adolescent learners to live in a world where what they do by nature is separated from what they understand about the world. We should instead constantly look to integrate doing and learning; only then will your children’s education begin to fly.
At Central Valley Christian School, we are moving in the direction of just such integration. The more we emphasize project-based learning, with its focus on collaboration, problem solving, creativity and critical thinking, the more we move toward what education was intended to be all along: a blending of skill and knowledge development with opportunities to feed children’s natures. When this merger finds its “sweet spot,” then you’ll see education as God intended it to be. Join us for that journey.