Open thread

Published by Lori Pickert on May 8, 2009 at 01:30 AM

Great ideas have legs. They take you somewhere. With them, you can raise questions that can’t be answered. These unanswerable questions should be a source of comfort. They ensure you’ll always have something to think about! Puzzlements invite the most precious of human abilities to take wing. I speak of imagination, the neglected stepchild of American education. — Elliot Eisner


Comment by reneegrace on May 8, 2009 at 04:19 PM

I'm looking forward to this summer... we will be 'schooling' for much of the summer... but I'm looking forward to trying out the project idea, seeing where that takes us, and putting away the math curriculum. I need to go back and re-read all those great posts on HOW TO START!! :) Thanks for your inspiration Lori.

Comment by Elise on May 8, 2009 at 07:02 PM

I love the idea of unanswerable questions being a source of comfort... I have a tendency to feel uncomfortable with the unknown or the unanswered - I'm going to think about embracing it as a way to spark imagination instead - yet another great quote to think about on many levels. Thank you!

Comment by melissa on May 8, 2009 at 07:25 PM

ah- i like that: 'the unanswered question should be a comfort- there will always be more to think about'. brilliant!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 9, 2009 at 06:48 PM

renee, that is wonderful!! :^D

i can’t wait to hear how it goes — i’m here for you!

elise, me too — i think part of successful project learning is becoming comfortable with a steady flow of questions and not knowing the answers. i think *many* people are uncomfortable with the unknown/unanswered .. in a typical schooling experience, after all, you are supposed to know the answer! and here we are getting comfortable with learning as a way of being — swimming around in the world acquiring knowledge, but always aware of what you *don’t* know. and being okay with it — expecting it! — and knowing that it’s *good* because that’s where you’re *supposed* to be.

memorizing a list of pre-supplied answers to a set of questions chosen by someone else is a much more inferior form of learning. imho. ;^)

thank YOU and have a great weekend!

thank you, melissa, and happy mothers day! :^)

Comment by Cordelia on May 9, 2009 at 09:22 PM

A nice thought for a recharge. Happy m's day.

Comment by Kelly on May 10, 2009 at 12:34 AM

Hey, Lori - reading through some old posts of yours and saw that May is your month. Hope that you have some great fun planned!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 11, 2009 at 12:24 AM

happy mothers day, cordelia, and EVERYONE!! :^D)

kelly — aw! how sweet of you to mention it. ;^) it *is* my month. my birthday’s less than a week away and i just had a lovely mothers day complete with breakfast out, a trip to the botanical garden, plant shopping at the frou-frou expensive plant place with all the lovely varieties, and a whole long afternoon and evening putting in a new veg plot. hope you had a wonderful day! :^)

Comment by Amy on May 11, 2009 at 01:30 AM

We visited the Eric Carle museum this weekend and I am feeling inspired. While my kids created in the studio, I browsed through some books. I drooled over the Reggio books in the store but ultimately decided against purchasing any (holy cow, some were $40-50! the ones I wanted, of course!!). They're having a Reggio conference up that way next month and the list of offerings sounded so wonderful. Then at the Smith College botanic gardens I saw a bit on a "leaf project" a local preschool had done there--not that they called it a leaf project, but that's what it was. I'm trying to figure out how to get the art supplies more readily accessible in my house, all the time, not just the crayons and paper (which is always out, along with scissors and glue and pencils) but the paints, too.

We're considering finishing the basement, which has been on the list since we moved in.... now I want to include a studio area... ;)

Comment by jen on May 11, 2009 at 01:54 AM

"imagination, the neglected stepchild of American education"
Oh, how it pained me to read that sentence! Our country started with such creativity and spark and ingenuity...and to think that we have gotten to a point of being so prosperous and able yet also neglecting our duty to teach our children sad.

Yet the quote inspires me and makes me excited for the end of this year and summer and next fall - so excited to be homeschooling and learning together with my children!

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 12, 2009 at 01:05 AM

amy, figuring out how to make some kind of studio space — having art materials available all the time, so the children can work independently on their own schedule — is an awesome goal. and i know it can be difficult if you don’t have an obvious space available.

having paint available is hard!

but a studio space in the basement? that would be awesome. :^)

jen — YES!! so, so true. we value individualism as Americans; we value the pioneer and the cowboy. the bold inventor, the dynamic thinker. but when it comes to schooling, it’s so much easier if everyone does as they’re told…

the problem with imagination and American education isn’t that it is completely ignored — it’s that school thinks they can train it like a domestic animal and bring it out only when they want it, and then make it jump through hoops on command.

you invented your own way of doing this math problem? no, we don’t want that. you’re confusing things. you’re writing a poem today — be creative. you want to use these math materials to make up a game you thought of yourself? i’m sorry, we don’t have time for that. do the assignment. remember the book that i chose and told you to read? well, whether you enjoyed it or not, whether it spoke to you or not, i now want you to make a diorama about it. it’s due on friday; use your imagination.

we know this isn’t how imagination works. it’s not how it works for us, as adults. but we consistently make choices for children that absolutely defy what we know about ourselves.

somehow, the same situation that would make us itch with mental discomfort we think is fine for kids. the same meaningless busywork that we would decry in the workplace is simply necessary in school.

we recognize ourselves as complex individuals but we think of children as being more alike than different. we say “children need this” and “children can live without that.” would we make statements that start “adults are like this” or “adults always do that”?

opening the door to imagination and creativity — all that right-brain stuff that daniel pink is saying is going to lead us into the conceptual age — means allowing it, period — encouraging it and giving it free rein. not trying to limit it or control it. imagine if school could do that!

Comment by jen on May 12, 2009 at 01:17 PM

Oh, you are so right. I hadn't thought about it in quite that way, and I am afraid that I am guilty of some of the very things you mentioned - oops! Guess I'll work on getting the log out of my own eye...

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 12, 2009 at 01:45 PM

ha, jen, i just gave our little exchange a highlight up top. (that’s laziness for you — sometimes when i am writing a long comment i begin to think “wait, this is actually more like a post…”)

well, we’re all guilty of these things … but that doesn’t discourage the ranty. what would blogging be without an acute examination of the speck in our brother’s eye? ;^)


Comment by misschris on May 13, 2009 at 07:13 AM

Great quote! Btw I'd love to know what project the kids in the photo are working on. Well actually me and Little S because he asked me and he went looking for toilet paper rolls in the bathroom. Just curious! And was it a photo from your school?

Comment by Lori Pickert on May 13, 2009 at 01:21 PM

hi chris, and thank you!

yes, that was my school! :^) and the children were painting some coral they made. :^)

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