Robert Fulghum’s #1 New York Times bestseller, written twenty-five years ago,All I Really Need To Know I learned in Kindergarten, was way-less depressing than the article I read last night, Eight Ways Kindergarten Holds The Key to 21St-Century Instruction by educator Sam Gliksman. This newer, insightful view of the education process in this century left me hoping that it would be read by educators that matter, because something obviously has to be done.
Gliksman, as you might take from the title, discusses eight ways in which a child’s first introduction to the educational system, Kindergarten, makes for a positive experience. Then he proceeds to show us what happens to that same way or aspect as the child proceeds through the grades.
Play: Play, the author notes while watching a happy Kindergarten class “is a highly effective method of informal learning that requires imagination and creativity.” Children, he points out are completely engaged with this type of learning. It exists in their here and now, not as in later grades when everything the child does has been determined by educators far from child’s real world.
Create: We all know this is a “biggie!” in this competitive day and age, and yet we somehow have managed to do away with it in the schools. Mr Gliksman tells about a lecture he attended given by a noted artist who turned to his audience and asked, “How many of you consider yourselves artists?” Only a few hands went up in this auditorium of several hundred people. The artist then related how almost every hand would go up when he asked the same question of preschoolers. How sad.
Socialize: This ‘way’ was one of my favorites. Gliksman notes how we let preschool children work together, but in later grades working together is called ‘cheating.’ And remains a ‘no-no’ until you get to the workplace when it suddenly reclaims its preschool importance and becomes 'cooperation.'
Discover: Children, says Gliksman, are naturally curious; they ask questions and look for answers when things interest them. In later years educators are required to teach stuff that others a long way from the classroom want the child to know. We all know how that works!
Experience: Preschoolers learn from a whole host of experiences. Later all educational experience is expected to be found in books.
Express: Children, says Gliksman, love to look at photos, watch videos and tell stories. Later the, “the entire world is expressed through text. For whatever reason, it seems that the only valid form of expressing knowledge is through text.”
Move: We all know how children like to move. Movement makes for a healthy mind and body. But in the schools the child is forced to sit in one place for hours.
Relate: In Kindergarten, teachers try to make learning as meaningful to the child as they possibly can. Even a subject as nuanced as math is taught with the child’s world in mind. Numbers are real objects, apples, oranges, that sort of thing. In later years math becomes so immaterial to their existence that teachers are constantly forced to tell them--instead of showing them as they did when they were younger--how important math will be to them in later years. They are expected to take it on faith.
This was a great article. A bit depressing, but insightful nonetheless. We can only hope that things will change. In many ways they already are in the STEM learning field as there are a number of new devices out there like our RobotsLAB BOX that can help a student relate to the importance of math.