Day 3 at CMK11: Ways of Knowing

My daughter is looking at colleges. She’s someone who can choose where she wants to go to school, and yesterday’s work at CMK pointedly reminded me what she needs to think about. All three of our speakers yesterday had things to say that echo through our world of school.

Lella Gandini, an early childhood educator and an expert in the Reggio Emilia approach, spoke to us about following the heart of the child, allowing them to lead, being co-learners and facilitators, and documenting our learning. What does learning look like? It looks like conversation, and bright eyes, and debate, and torn paper, and dirty hands, and trial and error. It is the relationship between student and teacher that is at the heart of learning.

Earlier in the day Brian Silverman reminded us that education is about changing people (and ourselves) into different people. It’s fun and it’s hard. The best learning, he argued, is between people and that our students look at what we are doing as much as what we are saying to them. We need to keep learning. And although the world of school and “schooliness”* is constrictive and restrictive, “testing everything doesn’t impact the ability to change ourselves.”

And then finally, in the oddly sterile presentation rooms (as compared to the creatively chaotic work spaces) at the MIT media lab, Mitch Resnick described how the people at the Lifelong Kindergarten Group are trying to keep the kindergarten spirit alive in their work. He suggested that our work (his work) was seeing how kids collaborate and finding ways to support them with learning environments and tools that have “low floors, high ceilings, and wide walls” – easy to begin using, lots of room for innovation and growth and experience, and many ways in to the experience.

And as I listened to all of these presenters, I thought of my daughters and their eventual search for a learning community that satisfies their needs as developing adults. My eldest is only seriously looking at schools where she already understands her relationship to the work and the community of learners. One school has the don system, one school allows her to design her own major, one school is committed to educating women leaders, and one emphasizes what ultimately all of our experiences here at CMK lead us to -that there are many ways of knowing and understanding our world around us. That particular school sees these ways as: Comparative Cultures, Historical Studies, Lab Science, Language, Literature, Quantitative and Deductive Reasoning, Reason and Value, Social Analysis, and the Visual and Performing Arts. And my daughter recognizes something else: she only is looking at schools where she feels the joy in everyday life.

It’s gotta be hard work, but it’s gotta be fun.

Which of course leads me back to my few hours of working with Turtle Art yesterday. I think I cracked the puzzle on tessellated figures. I almost have the shape right,

and I’ve figured out the arc needed to turn and interlock the figures.

I need just a little more time to tinker, and I think it will all come together. I’ve been watching new friends work with Turtle Art, PICO Crickets, and Prezi. Another new friend is trying to figure out a way to charge his cell phone with his bike (and to ride a recumbent bicycle). It’s all been good, hard, fun.

And a corollary to all of this: a night at Pizzeria Regina and Cafe Vittorio in the North End with friends is a wonderful way to spend a few hours.

*Schooliness is a term coined by Clay Burell

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