Let them challenge themselves

Published by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2011 at 12:33 PM

“At Tinkering School, children arrive not knowing what they’re going to do,” says Welch. “Gever whips off the tablecloth and says, ‘These are the tools and materials I challenge you with and this is what I challenge you to build.’ But wouldn’t it be better if the children said, ‘We challenge ourselves’?”

[W]ouldn’t it serve our children better if we could then give them tools and materials and let them do their own work? — BrightWorks, A School that Rethinks School

An interesting article about a new private school that is attempting to embody many of the things I write about on this blog. My only quibble: it sounds like the “collaborators” (the staff) get to choose the theme.

6 comments

Comment by Anne T. on August 26, 2011 at 08:48 PM

This school will be right up the road from us and I've wondered if I had a spare 15,000 if I would send my kid there. It is going to be a great experiment, if nothing else. Will be interesting to see how it evolves.

Comment by patricia on August 26, 2011 at 11:34 PM

I've been following this school for a while now, since it's near my home and I'm so curious about it.

(Then again, with their almost $20,000 a year tuition, I like the freedom--financial and otherwise--that homeschooling affords!)

Comment by Amy on August 27, 2011 at 04:40 AM

Ha, if the kids in this school are anything like mine they best prepare for mutiny. In the presence of tools (art supplies, utensils, toys, etc) no idea I harbor is match for what my small people have in mind.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 27, 2011 at 02:25 PM

i am interested, having owned and operated my own private school. I have visited so many programs that said the kids were in charge but .. mm .. the kids were not in charge. and not invested. so i heartily support every new effort, but i admittedly take it all with a grain of salt now.

sad that the tuition is so high. i know from experience that it costs $$$ to hire the best staff and etc., but they must be in a high-cost area because that would buy a lot of materials.

amy, that's where i raise my eyebrow — the kids shouldn't have to mutiny to do what they want! "do their own work" is good, but the key word is *own*. if someone else is picking the "theme" .. well, i'll wait and see. maybe it'll be great!

Comment by Alex on August 30, 2011 at 06:00 AM

What happens to the kid who can't commit to and stick with a project? That's a lot of pressure when you're 18 or 20 and trying to choose a major, let alone chose something in elementary school to work on for a looooong time. The theme did seem sort of contrived to me, but I do see the point in providing everybody with a set of group experiences as a jumping off point. Stil, as a big fruity unschooling leaning hippy, wary of the resemblance to a million "progressive" programs where you are taught something and then have the freedom to do any sort of project in response...My main memory of this is choosing something very easy for me and feeling like I got away with something for getting a good grade. I'm good at saying nay though. I'd love to see this program succeed. Please revisit this one!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 30, 2011 at 06:51 PM

since projects grow out of a child's deepest interests, there's no problem with commitment — the work is self-chosen. the child's interest also determines how long the project lasts. he doesn't have commit to a "looooong time" — he simply keeps going as long as he wants to keep going while he's supported to dig in deeply.

"That's a lot of pressure when you're 18 or 20 and trying to choose a major, let alone chose something in elementary school..." yes, and the interesting thing is, allowing kids to do meaningful work and explore their passions *early* means they'll be much better prepared as a young adult to choose their path. as the system stands now, kids are shuttled along and graduate from high school not necessarily knowing what they really care about or what really interests them — that's a bad position from which to quickly choose how best to spend $50-100,000 on the education that will form the foundation of their future career.

re: theme/group experiences — project topics can be chosen from the children's interests rather than simply arbitrarily handed down by teachers. that way, you get all the positives of collaborative group work but it's still owned by the kids.

re: choosing something very easy and feeling like you got away with something .. this is typical when a child wants to avoid "work" and maybe "learning" if they associate learning and work with something they don't want to do. the aim of project learning (as i define it and champion it) is to help them do the work they want to do. so they wouldn't want to avoid it. whatever they're going to do *after* they avoid something .. that's what you want to help them do.

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