Why not? Oh, its because there are varying levels of "clean" when you deal with students. When I say kids clean the school, I don't mean they are outside on two story ladders washing windows, I mean they are in the lunchroom after lunch picking up other people's discarded half eaten pbj. I mean they are in the hallways at the end of school picking up trash that isn't theirs. I mean they are outside, on school grounds, picking up old cans that have been carelessly disregarded by passers by. I mean they are given the valuable opportunity to feel what its like to serve someone else who may not even know them, or even care. I mean they can do something simple that gives them purpose, it gives them immediate positive feedback, and in turn, gives them another check in the "I am valuable" box. While we are thinking crazy, what about opening doors? You think we could make a fun competition out of that both in and out of school? No wait, we could make a game of "please and thank you" where students have to inform teachers (good tattling) at the end of the day, of a time when they heard another student say please and thank you.
Yes, parents are in charge of teaching their kids how to be nice and courteous and respectful and service oriented. How much more could we reinforce their model by expanding those learning activities in school? Just some half eaten pbj food for thought.....that I just picked up after my 2 year olds lunch. She doesn't know or care that I picked it up, but I love her anyway.
My first grader wanted to learn more about money today. I thought quickly on how to simplify a monetary system gone haywire. I took a dollar bill out of my wallet and placed it next to a piece of paper with a "daddy dollar" I had drawn on it. I asked, "Which dollar would you use to buy the necklace you wanted to buy today?" She pointed to the US currency. I asked, "Why?" She said, "Because its real money." I asked what makes it real money. She said, "because everyone says it is." Bingo. I explained that our dollars have value because everyone says they do. We agree on it. The problem is, what happens if everyone decides they don't? I asked her what the US currency and the daddy dollar have in common. "They are both like paper." I added a 1 oz silver coin to the table. I explained in the event that everyone decided to not agree that the paper was worth anything anymore, the silver dollar coin was worth more. "Why?" she asked. "What if everyone decided the silver dollar wasn't worth anything either?" "Because", I said, "the paper is of no use once it's not used as dollars. However, the silver in the silver dollar can be used in many more ways and would be of more value to more people. It can be melted and used for electronics, health care equipment, its a great sanitizer, and it doesn't tarnish or degrade. The more uses an item has, the more value it will hold."
I laugh because the parent website to TheHovercraftProject.com is PassionForEducation.org. My greater passion is learning. The reason I acquired that address is because PassionForLearning.org was already taken. I do have a passion for both, but how do they differ?
Education is giving or receiving instruction. Learning is knowledge gained through experience. I do love education in that we need to impart facts to students to help them relate to society. Examples would be : the alphabetic symbols and their meanings, mathematical symbols and their meanings, or looking both ways before crossing the street. Fundamental education is important because you don't want your kids to experience getting hit by a car before they learn that they should look both ways.
Learning is what happens in life, every second of every day, in all contexts, concurrently. Learning is a student creating their own meaning though their experiences. Learning is climbing on monkey bars and then letting go. (gravity) Learning is speaking to people and watching their facial expressions compared to what you say. (body language) Learning is sticking your finger in an ant hill to see if they are red ants. (wish I had been educated on this.) Learning is creating things that fail and creating again. You get the idea.
Education is necessary, however, we have taken it too far. We program our students with facts and knowledge without allowing them the time to backup that knowledge with experiences. I would even go so far as to say that much of that content is useless and pointless unless it is directly relevant to a students' life experiences. Why do you think students are educated, take a test, pass and then forget what they learned? Because they didn't really learn the material. They have no experience relating themselves to the material. They have no immediate use for the material. How can we solve this problem?
Here's what I would do. If I had a choice, I would teach students primarily how to learn and less of what to learn. Students would determine what to learn based on where they are in their ZPD (zone of proximal development) by creating their own projects and evaluations for those projects. They determine the meaning, content, and application of their learning. Teachers would assist using the Socratic method of Learning. (Use questions to facilitate learning) Do we need educational facts? Yes. However, let students discover facts and truth at their own pace and in their own time using project based instruction, modeled by the most passionate teachers in existence.
My oldest is in first grade and the youngest is 3. I'm always looking out for opportunities to teach concepts, content, or skills to my daughters. While the oldest is in school, my youngest and I go on nature walks. Sometimes our nature walks acquire a collection of leaves and twigs and dirt that we place under a microscope to make observations.