Thursday, September 1, 2016

Embracing Spontaneity in Learning

“Spontaneity, in my view, is the best antidote to fear and habit, both of which are part of our repertoire but should not dominate. Fear and habit hold us back and make us predictable. Spontaneity opens the door to creativity and happiness, in part because of the unpredictability it brings.”
                                                                                   --Joachim Krueger, behavioral psychologist

There are lots of things to see on our expansive campus—flowers visited by interesting insects, lovely gardens, friendly ponies.

So I was a little surprised when Ethan, a first grader, stopped on our campus stroll to stare at a dripping downspout on the side of a building. “Where is the water coming from?” he wondered. We imagined the water’s downward path and our imaginations traveled upward to its origin: a gutter. In short order, Ethan determined that the gutter collected rainwater, which flowed into it from the sloped ceiling of the building. From there, we talked about the force that causes all things to be pulled downward to the lowest point: gravity.

Having goals for a child’s learning and a plan to get there is important. Our teachers have created curriculum continua to enumerate objectives at each stage of a child's development, and they plan rich learning experiences accordingly.

At the same time, spontaneity is a critical part of learning. It sparks curiosity, stokes wonderings, and sets questions ablaze. Ethan might have become interested in gravity if he were told to read in a textbook about how a downspout in a gutter system is an example of water traveling via gravity. But by discovering this simple, elegant system on his own, his innate sense of wonder made the “lesson” all the more powerful—and memorable.